McIlroy makes hay in the morning calm as 'Mild Thing' Daly rolls back the years

Ulsterman opens US PGA campaign with flawless five-under round but Tiger toils in the heat

Kiawah Island

"It was hot. Damn hot," as Robin Williams yelled in Good Morning Vietnam. And so, once again, was Rory McIlroy's game. Crisis? What crisis? Well, McIlroy did say he liked the grass at the Ocean Course. And he smoked it in the first round of the 94th US PGA Championship here yesterday, shooting a five-under-par 67. He had graded his form on the eve of the tournament as a B. On this performance, an A may yet appear on his end-of-term report.

The 23-year-old world No 3's mood this week has been upbeat, as he has sensed a return of the scintillating shot-making form that sent him soaring away to win the US Open last year by eight shots. The monsoon that has soaked the course was perfect for his attacking style, as the greens were as receptive as dartboards. It did not take McIlroy long to hit the bull's eye: bash with the driver, whack with the wedge, birdie at the 10th (his first hole). The perfect start.

McIlroy set off among the dunes shortly after breakfast time. The setting was serene, with the Atlantic's white horses lapping on to the beach. Colossal colonial-style Addams Family houses, tucked away in the shade of giant trees, line the course with their verandahs and rocking chairs and Southern belles sweeping down spiral staircases to beg Rhett not to leave.

In fact no one was gone with the wind yesterday. There wasn't any. It was the calm after the storms that poured six inches of rain on to Kiawah Island. "There was completely no wind," McIlroy said. "It was flat calm and I really thought that I had to take advantage of the conditions.

"I got off to a great start, was three under through seven holes and just took it on from there. It's a great score to build on. We know there's wind and bad weather coming. It won't be like that again."

We have been here before with McIlroy. There have been good starts out of the grid this season followed by stalled engines. He admitted it, too, and will be hoping this time it won't be a case of déjà vu all over again. He was wise to be cautious. "It's tough for guys to follow up a good round with another," he said. "You see it all the time. Someone shoots 66 and then they will do well to break 70 the next day. It's just the way golf is."

His mantra to avoid another slide is "middle of the greens". It worked in round one. He hit 15 out of 18 in the regulation in a rare bogey-free round. Even more rare is the sight of John Daly on a major championship leaderboard. A four-under-par 68 for the golfer formerly known as the "Wild Thing" saw him tucked in behind McIlroy and the early front-runner, Sweden's Carl Pettersson at six under. In the chasing pack were defending champion Keegan Bradley and Geoff Ogilvy at four under, and Ian Poulter and Thomas Bjorn at two under.

The last time Daly finished in the top 10 of one of golf's stellar four-pack was in 1995 when he won the Open at St Andrews. The 46-year-old, more "Mild Thing" these days, and more notorious for his loud trousers than a loud lifestyle, won the US PGA Championship, too, in 1991. McIlroy was two years old then. The crowds still love Daly and the feeling is mutual. "They're amazing," he said. "They just keep you going. They were getting good and loud on the back nine. I love it. I'm just kind of loosey-goosey out there – and it feels good."

While McIlroy looked cool in his cherry-red shirt, others were less fortunate as the temperature hit 90F with 75 per cent humidity. Many players looked like they had stepped out of the shower and straight on to the course. Others had embarrassing sweat patches. Tiger Woods looked like he had soaking wet pants. He recovered from bogeys at the 13th and 14th (his fourth and fifth holes) to sign for a three-under-par 69. "I played well," he said. "Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major."

But it was the usual hot-potch of genius and frustration from the world No 2. Genius: his flop-shot wedge that parachuted down to four feet to help save par at the 9th, his last hole. "Open up with a 60 [degree wedge] and put a bit of fuel on it," heexplained. Frustration: channeling John McEnroe at the 15th when his approach zipped away from the hole. "You cannot be serious," he muttered, just loud enough for everyone to hear.

"I probably lost a bit of weight today," Woods said after his round. "Just have to hydrate and recover from the heat."

 



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence