PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Rory McIlroy wins supergroup battle against Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth

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TULSA, Okla. – Maybe the folks running the PGA Championship are Bon Jovi fans, because Thursday’s second major of the season followed the rocker’s “don’t bore us, go to the chorus” philosophy.

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Shortly after 8 a.m., the PGA of America’s flagship event unleashed the supergroup of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth on the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. There were plenty of questions before the tournament about how playing in the group would affect each player, but in the end the superstars seemed to prove that the sprawling Southern Hills golf course is big enough to handle it all.

“There’s plenty of room, so it’s not as oppressive as some other venues,” McIlroy said after shooting a stellar five under 65. “I was looking forward to the draw anyway. It’s always a nice group to be part of, but I think this golf course, with the way it’s been opened, doesn’t seem as loud as it used to be. ‘habit.

The course has grown considerably since Woods won this tournament here in 2007, throwing for 7,498 yards in Thursday’s first round. To achieve this length, there are a few inconvenient tee boxes throughout, such as the 628-yard par-5 13th hole which plays directly over the 12th green. But those idiosyncrasies haven’t proven difficult to navigate so far, and as McIlroy points out, Southern Hills is no longer the tree-lined course fans might remember from tournaments past. The sprawling property is generous from the outset, and although many trees remain, the contoured fairways, sweeping views and undulating green complexes with seemingly endless runoff areas are now the defining features.

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“I feel like this course allows you to be pretty aggressive off the start if you want to, so I hit quite a few riders and took advantage of my length,” McIlroy said.

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The Northern Irishman certainly did. On a day when Spieth (+2) seemed to be searching and Woods (+4) seemed to be in pain, McIlroy was busy launching pilots into orbit and making his string of major championship crashes all the more curious. Trading his old trademark high draw for a fade, McIlroy put up long exposure, hitting two 378-yard drives, a 369-yard and a 353-yard bomb.

“I’m a little more comfortable hitting the driver left to right by the minute,” he said. “I feel like my body is working a bit better, I can be more aggressive with my body.”

Perhaps even more promising was McIlroy’s corner play and putting which saw him start his round early with four straight birdies from the 12th, his third hole of the day. His first two birdies were close to tap-ins set up by big corners, before making 26-foot and 10-foot putts for his third and fourth birdies of the day.

McIlroy finished with seven birdies and two bogeys and, more importantly, exorcised some of Thursday’s major championship demons.

For most of the first round, the 46-year-old Woods looked like a golfer struggling with his game and his ailing leg. Playing in the oppressive heat, Woods appeared to struggle physically on his back nine, stretching his right leg on the seventh tee, and grimacing and limping after hitting his tee shot on the eighth.

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“Yeah, my leg doesn’t feel as good as I would like it to,” he said. “We will start the recovery process and deal with it tomorrow… Loading hurts, pressing hurts, walking hurts and twisting hurts. It’s just golf. I don’t play that, if I don’t do that, then it’s fine. »

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Woods made seven bogeys and three birdies, struggled up and down difficult bunkers on the Southern Hills green side, and needed two shots from the 18th green, bogeying his final hole.

Spieth had high hopes of completing the career Grand Slam this week and joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen at the most exclusive club in golf. Despite winning and finishing second in his last two starts, Spieth looked like a player still looking, something he warned of ahead of the tournament, saying that despite his recent successes he wasn’t quite where he was. he wanted to be with his swing.

It wasn’t a good start for two of the three superstars, but the PGA Championship gave golf fans a jolt on Thursday and the tournament continues to close the gap in its race for recognition among the four majors. While it will certainly never match its three big brothers in prestige, since the change of schedule in 2019, the tournament has delivered big winners and superb rooms.

If Thursday is a sign of what’s to come, clear your weekend schedule.

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