LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rory McIlroy showed no sign of letting up. Lee Westwood might just be getting started. Momentum was a big theme Thursday in the opening round of the PGA Championship, and it even applied to Tiger Woods.
Except that Woods kept going the wrong direction.
Westwood followed up a season-best 63 four days ago at Firestone by matching his best score in a major championship. He made nine birdies at Valhalla for a 6-under-par 65, giving him a share of the lead with Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell (a UCLA grad, Chappell owns a home in Kirkland).
One shot behind was McIlroy, the No. 1 player and overwhelming favorite in the final major of the year. McIlroy, coming off back-to-back wins at the British Open and a World Golf Championship, overcame a wild double bogey on the par-5 10th hole by running off four straight birdies. His eagle attempt on the 18th hole narrowly missed. He settled for a 66, a solid start in his bid to become only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year.
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Woods achieved that feat twice, including at Valhalla in 2000. That now seems even longer than 14 years ago.
On a day when nearly half the field shot par or better, Woods opened with a 3-over 74. He hit two tee shots that missed the fairway by some 30 yards, hooked a 3-wood into a creek and hit a spectator with his tee shot on a par 3. His two best putts were for par and bogey.
“It wasn’t very good,” Woods said.
He didn’t look very sharp. In his last competitive round, Woods withdrew after eight holes at Firestone because of another back injury. He said his trainer was able to pop a joint back into place, eliminating the pain. But it apparently did little for the rust.
Woods wasn’t the only player who hit a few wild ones. Right when McIlroy was building momentum, he hooked his second shot on the par-5 10th hole over a fence and out-of-bounds, leading to a double bogey. He was more upset about a three-putt bogey on the next hole, but then Boy Wonder bounced back with four straight birdies to get right back into the mix.
“Whenever you are confident and you have some momentum on your side, it’s easier to do what I did today rather if everything is sort of going against you, and you’re struggling for form and you have a patch like that,” he said.
Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk were among five players at 66. Kentucky native J.B. Holmes had a 68 despite taking a double bogey on the 13th hole when his drive landed in a divot and his next shot didn’t find the island green.
Phil Mickelson played alongside Woods and rallied for a 69.
Ryan Moore of Puyallup shot a 73.
• Sandra Gal made six straight birdies on her back nine to take the first-round lead in the Meijer LPGA Classic in Belmont, Mich., shooting a 6-under 65. Jimin Kang, a graduate of King’s High School in Shoreline, shot a 71. Former Husky Louise Friberg had a 73. Michelle Wie withdrew because of a wrist injury.