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Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth five off the lead at US PGA Championship

Rory McIlroy shot an opening round of 72 at Quail Hollow
From Phil Casey, Press Association Sport Golf Correspondent, Charlotte

RORY McIlroy let slip a promising position on day one of the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow but still ended the day just five shots off the first round leader, Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen.

The Holywood man looked primed to challenge for the lead midway through the back nine of his opening round but a bogey-double bogey run at holes 13 and 14 saw him slip back to one-over par from two-under par.

He then was unable to convert an eight-foot birdie chance on the next hole, the par five 15th, and subsequently parred his final three holes for a round of 72.

McIlroy had earlier moved into a menacing position with a run of three birdies in four holes around the turn, after an opening birdie at the third hole had been tarnished by bogeys at four and six.

A trademark late rally ensured Jordan Spieth kept his bid to become the youngest player to complete a career grand slam on track.

Spieth's dramatic Open victory at Royal Birkdale means another at Quail Hollow would see him join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having won all four majors.

But the 24-year-old had to recover from three over par with three holes to play to match McIlroy's 72 and lie five shots behind Olesen.

US Open champion Brooks Koepka was a shot off the lead along with fellow Americans Grayson Murray, Gary Woodland and Chris Stroud, with England's Paul Casey another shot back on two-under.

Starting on the back nine alongside fellow 2017 major winners Koepka and Sergio Garcia, Spieth opened with five pars before carding his first birdie on the par-five 15th, only to promptly give the shot back on the next after finding two bunkers.

Spieth also bogeyed the first, one of the new holes constructed at Quail Hollow immediately after it hosted last year's Wells Fargo Championship, after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

And when he three-putted the fifth and sixth from just off the green, the world number two was in danger of seeing his title challenge ruined on the opening day.

However, birdies on the next two holes – courtesy of what Spieth described as a "phenomenal" hybrid into the par-five seventh and a "fantastic" wedge to the eighth – repaired most of the damage.

"Historically I'm pretty solid with the lead so that was kind of the goal," Spieth said. "It's much easier when you are on the front page of the leaderboard than it is coming from behind.

"Given it's the first round I know I'm still in it, but I know that tomorrow's round becomes that much more important to work my way and stay in it. I've got to make up ground.

"If I'm five back at the start of the day, I've got to be less than five back after Friday to really feel like I can play the way this golf course needs to be played and still be able to win.

"I drove the ball well today. If you told me I was going to hit my driver the way that I did today, I would have definitely thought I shot a few under par. I can't putt any worse than I did today."

Spieth had insisted on Wednesday that he had no "burning desire" to surpass Woods as the youngest grand slam winner and was "freerolling" this week, but added: "I don't think I was as freerolling as I thought I would be, as you can tell by some frustration.

"If I would have shot one over and didn't strike it well and everything was average, it would have been fine. But when I had the chances that I had and I just couldn't get the ball to go in on the greens, that is when I get the most frustrated I can get out there."

Olesen had only played 13 majors before this week, but was ninth in the Open in 2012 and finished sixth on his Masters debut the following year.

The 27-year-old was also 10th in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and carried on where he left off on Sunday with a round containing six birdies and two bogeys.

"I feel like the last two months I've been playing very well without really getting any results," Olesen said. "Last week I was struggling a bit the first two days with my driving but then I sorted that out over the weekend and started making a lot of birdies there.

"I've had a couple of top 10s in majors and I feel like I've learned a lot over the years. I feel like I'm better prepared to be in contention over the weekend and have a chance to win.

"I feel more confident with myself and my game than I probably did a few years ago. I just have to stay relaxed the next few days, still trying to keep the ball in the fairway, and then I know I can hit it close and make some birdies."

 

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