Rory McIlroy’s “scrappy” PGA Championship round produces strong results 

Rory McIlroy looks strong after his Thursday round at the 2024 PGA Championship. McIlroy, who won this event in 2012 and 2014, fired a 5-under 66 to sit four behind leader Xander Schauffele on day one.

He played a solid round of golf, collecting six birdies and one bogey. The momentum he picked up with his win in Charlotte last week followed him to Valhalla. His opening round looked great on the scorecard, but there is still room for improvement.

“I felt like it was pretty scrappy for the most part. I don’t feel like I left many out there,” McIlroy said.

“I thought I got a lot out of my game today. Some good up-and-downs, the chip-in on 6. I had a little bit of a scrappy part around the turn there, but overall really happy with—not happy with how I played, but at least happy with the score.”

2024 PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy

Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

He currently leads the field in strokes gained around the green, picking up 2.567 shots. McIlroy hit several strong wedge shots that put him in good positions to make birdies.

However, off the tee, he ranks 134th in strokes gained. He lost shots in the one area that is usually his strong suit. Last week, the 35-year-old put on a clinic with his driver, but he only hit 7-of-14 fairways during Thursday’s first round.

McIlroy started his day with a birdie on the par-5 10th, his first hole. He moved to 2-under at the par-4 13th.

The 26-time PGA Tour winner then dropped a shot at 17, bringing him back to 1-under for the round.

But he almost made another bogey on the par-5 18th, historically the easiest hole on the course.

McIlroy hit his tee shot into the water that sits to the right of the fairway. He then took a drop and hit his third shot to 112 yards out. Then, his fourth shot left him with a 7-footer for par, likely his most important shot of the day.

“Made a great up-and-down from about 120 yards to make par, which was important after making bogey on 17,” he said.

“That kept any momentum I had going into the next nine. It was huge. I could have easily bogeyed 18 and been back to even par.”

Luckily for McIlroy, he turned with a 1-under 35 and headed to the front nine hoping to take advantage of Valhalla’s soft conditions.

He immediately did so on the par-4 1st, as his approach shot nailed the flagstick and landed next to the hole.

“That ball on one could have hit the flagstick and went anywhere,” McIlroy said.

“I could have made bogey from that. Potentially being 1-over par through 10, [instead] I’m 2-under. So it’s a three-shot difference. It’s a big swing.”

Those moments keep players in the hunt while also sustaining momentum.

McIlroy made three more birdies on the 5th, 6th, and 6th holes, with the one at six being a chip-in from off the green.

Plenty of players, including McIlroy, have taken advantage of the benign conditions.

“Greens are really soft, especially for the guys that played last week at Quail Hollow, where the greens were particularly firm,” he said.

“You come to greens like this, second shots are easier. Chip shots are easier if you do miss the greens. The difference between last week in Charlotte and this week is a big difference, and I think for the guys that played last week. It’s a little less challenging at the minute around the greens.”

Overall, it was a scrappy day for the two-time PGA Champion, but he has plenty of momentum heading into day two.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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