SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY | Rory McIlroy must be getting tired of the same old song.
McIlroy’s PGA Championship hopes melted early in the summer sun Thursday at Baltusrol Golf Club when he found himself searching again for his putting stroke that has gone missing more than once this year.
He never found it and, as a result, opened with a 4-over-par 74 that put him in serious jeopardy of missing the cut in the season’s final major championship.
It hardly mattered that McIlroy drove it well and his iron play was solid. On Baltusrol’s poa annua greens, McIlroy looked like a man trying to solve a mystery without any clues.
“It’s mental more than anything,” McIlroy said after needing 35 putts in the first round.
McIlroy started his round by giving himself a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th hole (his first). He missed.
Then he missed an 8-foot birdie putt at No. 11.
Instead of a quick 2-under-par start, McIlroy developed a growing anxiety on the greens. He missed an 8-footer at No. 13, then 3-putted the 14th.
By the time McIlroy was finished, he had one 6-footer to show for his work on the greens. He made a total of 37 feet, 3 inches of putts Thursday, an average of just more than 2 feet per hole.
By comparison, Emiliano Grillo made 127 feet of putts in shooting 66.
McIlroy decided to take the hot afternoon off, perhaps with a return to Baltusrol for a late-afternoon practice session. Then he plans to spend extra time Friday before his second round (assuming heavy rains in the forecast do not arrive).
“I’m driving it as well as ever, I think,” McIlroy said. “But when I get on the greens, it’s a different story.”