Near on a decade ago after a then fresh-faced, curly-haired Rory McIlroy strode triumphantly down the final hole to win his second major and Kiawah Island regained some revenge with McIlroy posting an error-filled three-over par 75 on the 103rd hosting of the PGA Championship.
It’s not the first time he’s shot 75 at Kiawah as he posted that same score on day two in 2012 but that was in ‘would blow a dog of a chain’ conditions on the severely windswept Atlantic Ocean course. It was also a score that was a mere hiccup as McIlroy went out over the next two rounds to post scores of 67 and 66 and win by eight.
Now after the first day of the 2021 PGA Championship, McIlroy was well down in a share of 82nd place following a round of three birdies and twice as many bogeys.
It left McIlroy trailing eight shots behind the clubhouse leader Corey Conners and who leads by two after carding a five-under par 67.
McIlroy got his round underway with a loud call of ‘Fore, right!’ when he blocked his opening tee shot from the 10th tee and watching on as his ball disappeared into marshland. It led to McIlroy calling for a rules official, and for a first of two times in his round, so as to determine where his drive, and measured to be 308-yards on the PGA Championship ‘online’ scoring website, had crossed the hazard line.
As McIlroy’s father, Gerry looked on, a colleague following the group counted a flock of eight herons flying overhead in perfect ‘fighter jet’ formation as McIlroy pondered his third shot from a waste bunker en route to a bogey ‘5’.
To his credit, McIlroy regained the shot and also went to one-under with back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th holes ahead of a second bogey of his round at the par-5 16th. McIlroy’s second shot on 16 had come to rest embedded in a waste bunker and some 125-yards from the hole.
“Can I get a ref?” McIlroy could be heard saying. A referee came and then left but without the favourable ruling McIlroy had sought. There was an incident of sorts at the par-3 17th when McIlroy found a greenside bunker and then in splashing to just four-feet, McIlroy was staring into the crowd with a look that he wasn’t happy with what he’d heard.
Whatever it was, McIlroy put it aside to save par and make the turn in a respective level par. Though the reigning Wells Fargo champion dropped shots at the opening two holes, the first and second holes on the scorecard, to be now two-over par.
McIlroy dropped to three-over with a bogey at his 14th, the par-3 fifth, ahead of a superb approach shot into the par-4 15th to 12-feet and sending the putt to the bottom of the cup for just a third birdie.
Sadly, McIlroy gave the shot back at the next ahead of the closing pair of pars. There had been requests from the media, both in attendance and on Zoom, to speak with McIlroy, but he was not talking and headed straight to the locker room.
No such trouble for Koepka and McIlroy’s supposed arch rival inside the ropes with the double US Open and double PGA Championship winner clearly still struggling somewhat with a reoccurring injured knee.
And having missed the cut in his last two events – the Masters and AT&T Byron Nelson, nothing was going to stop him teeing-up this week for the player who captured the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championship crowns. When asked if it lifted his confidence to be sharing the lead Koepka was at his quintessential ‘deadpan’ manner best.
“I felt like I already had confidence,” he said. “So, in my mind, it’s just a major week. Just show up. That’s all you’ve got to do.”