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Steady start for Rory McIlroy as Rickie Fowler leads US PGA field

Ian Poulter (-3) shakes hands with Rickie Fowler (-5) after completing their first round at the US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis
From Phil Casey in St Louis

RORY McIlroy is braced for a “crazy” second round of the US PGA Championship after experiencing a bout of Tiger-mania in St Louis.

The marquee group of McIlroy, Tiger Woods and defending champion Justin Thomas drew massive galleries for an 0823 tee time on Thursday morning at Bellerive Country Club.

And the crowd is likely to be even bigger when the star trio begin their second rounds shortly before 2pm on Friday, with Thomas one-under par and Woods and McIlroy both level-par.

“It was pretty cool to be out there 8:30 in the morning and have an atmosphere like that,” McIlroy said. “JT and I were saying it's going to get a little crazy tomorrow afternoon. So we're looking forward to that.

“Harry [Diamond] caddied for me in the 2005 Irish Open when I was 16 and then we're walking the fairways in a group like this today, 13 years later. So it's pretty cool.”

McIlroy wore an anti-inflammatory patch on his right arm as he compiled an opening 70 which featured two birdies and two bogeys on the outward half and nine pars in a row to finish.

“I started feeling it the weekend of Firestone,” the 29-year-old said. “It hurts the most with chipping because I sort of hold the angle a little bit. The whole forearm has been tight.

“I hit a lot of balls last week at Firestone working on a few things and it's just a little inflamed and a little tight, but it's fine.

“I wish I could have taken advantage of the two par fives. I gave myself a few chances and it could have been a little better.

“I feel like I hit good putts out there today. They either didn't want to break or they hit something so it was tough. You just had to stay patient.”

Ian Poulter admits he cannot get the Ryder Cup out of his mind despite making light of a lack of practice to make a superb start.

After being away from his Orlando base since May 20, Poulter flew home after finishing 10th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday rather than heading straight to St Louis for the final Major of the season.

The 42-year-old only travelled to Bellerive Country Club on Wednesday and played just nine holes in practice, but still carded an opening 67 to lie two shots off the early clubhouse lead held by playing partner Rickie Fowler.

“I saw the weather forecast saying it was going to be 97 degrees on Monday and I don't normally play golf on Mondays anyway,” Poulter said. “And then I saw the storm possibilities on Tuesday and Katie [his wife] and the kids were arriving home on Tuesday afternoon.

“So for me it made sense to go home, have a rest, unpack, fill the fridge full of food and have a couple of nights' sleep in my own bed and come up early Wednesday morning.

Ireland's other three representatives were all out early like McIlroy, and Shane Lowry fared best with a one-under 69. Padraig Harrington (71) and Paul Dunne (73) have work to do today to make the cut.

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