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Thursday, 09 August 2012
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy made a superb opening to the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island - helped rather than hindered this time by a spectator.

As the thunderstorms of earlier in the week gave way to dry, calm and boiling hot conditions for the start of golf's last Major of the year, McIlroy grabbed three birdies in his first seven holes.

It could have all been undone, however, when he pulled his tee shot to the dangerous short 17th, his eighth.

The ball carried the lake with something to spare, but to shouts of "Fore" sailed into the crowd and could have finished in all manner of trouble.

At last month's Open Championship McIlroy's hopes of second Major title nosedived after he rebounded off a teenager's head out of bounds late on the first day, but on this occasion it caught a lady on the hip and came back into a nice lie in the sand only 25 feet from the flag.

The 23 year old Northern Irishman splashed out to six feet, saved his par and with a three under par back nine 33 was only one behind the early leader, 43 year old American Ken Duke.

McIlroy had brought a cheer from the gallery before leaving the 17th, running back to give the female spectator the ball. Unlike Lytham, where the boy's head was gashed, she seemed perfectly fine.

Last year's US Open Champion had kicked off with a 12 foot birdie putt, converted a ten foot chance on the short 14th and then chipped to six feet at the long 16th - a hole which saw playing partner Jim Furyk, three under at the time, needing three attempts to putt up a bank right of the green and take a double bogey seven.

Alongside McIlroy were US-based Swede Carl Pettersson and big-hitting American Gary Woodland, while Tiger Woods was level par after seven.

The four-time winner, without a Major victory since the 2008 US Open, holed from ten feet at the 412 yard 12th, but did well to bogey the next.

He drove into sand - there is no such thing as a bunker on the Ocean Course - hit his second into the crowd, chipped into more sand, but from there came out to a foot to limit the damage.

Joost Luiten and Thomas Aiken were amongst those on two under, Ian Poulter was one under after seven, matching McIlroy's four on the 581 yard 16th, while Martin Laird was level after 11 and so was last year's Open Champion Darren Clarke - a good comeback after he had run up a seven on the 593 yard 11th.

McIlroy became joint leader by adding another birdie on the 557 yard second, but found himself relegated to joint second a few moments later when Dutchman Luiten, making his debut in the event, followed three birdies in his first five with an eagle at the 16th.

There was also an eagle - on the 11th in his case - from 1991 winner John Daly and he moved alongside Pettersson and McIlroy on four under, Duke having bogeyed the 13th to slip back to three under.

Woods turned one under after making a 22 foot putt on the 18th and Poulter's birdies at the 16th and 18th lifted him to two under.

Luiten turned in a brilliant 31, but had company when Pettersson, out in 32, started for home with his fifth birdie.

McIlroy and Daly were one behind, with Woods and Poulter part of the group on three under after the American had three birdies in a row around the turn.

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