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rory woe Rory McIlroy suffers another slow start to a major as Padraig Harrington rolls back the years

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Rory McIlroy reacts to his shot from the 15th tee during the first round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy reacts to his shot from the 15th tee during the first round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy reacts to his shot from the 15th tee during the first round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy suffered yet another slow start to a major championship, as he fluffed his lines from his first shot and finished at three over par.

McIlroy had been somewhat fortunate to escape with a bogey on his opening hole and birdied the next two to get into red figures, but eventually signed for a 75 to continue his costly habit of bad starts in the game’s biggest events.

Since 2015 the 32-year-old is a combined 35 over par in the first round of majors and again faces an uphill task to win a fifth major title and first since the 2014 US PGA.

McIlroy had come into the event as the tournament favourite on the back of his eight-shot win at Kiawah in 2012 and a victory in his previous start on the PGA Tour, but got his campaign under way by carving his tee shot into the water on the par-four 10th.

After taking a penalty drop McIlroy hit his third shot into a sandy waste area behind the green and, although he appeared to catch his fourth shot a little thin, got up and down to salvage an opening bogey.

Birdies on the 11th and 12th took McIlroy under par, but he managed just one more birdie against five bogeys and crucially played the par fives in two over par.

There was better news for Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who rolled back the years on a challenging course to record an opening round of two under par.

The European Ryder Cup captain looked in control of his game and he should now be around at the weekend to play the full four rounds at Kiawah Island

Brookes Koepka also made an impressive start, with the US PGA Champios in 2018 and 2019 in good form despite playing just four competitive rounds since the end of February after undergoing surgery on March 16 to deal with a knee cap dislocation and ligament damage.

“The first rule is, if you’re in trouble, get the hell out,” Koepka said of his opening hole. “I couldn’t reach the green. It was a bad lie. Just tried to hit a pull sand wedge up by the green instead of just chopping it out. So mental mistake there. Deserved every bit of that double bogey.

“It kind of helped me refocus. I can’t play with any mistakes, maybe one a day, and that was my one, and I got it out of the way the first hole.”

The longest course in major history had dominated the build-up to the season’s second major, with the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course on South Carolina’s Atlantic coast capable of playing to a maximum of 7,876 yards.

And although it was playing to ‘only’ 7,660 yards on Thursday, the length and windy conditions were proving a tough test for the world’s best players.

Scotland’s Martin Laird had threatened to claim the clubhouse lead with four birdies in a row from the 13th taking him to four under, but bogeyed the 17th and 18th to return a 70.

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The English trio of Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton and Tom Lewis all shot rounds of 71, while US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau had five birdies and five bogeys in an eventful 72.

Before play had got under way at 7am local time, former Open champion Francesco Molinari had been forced to withdraw from the event with a back injury in another blow to his chances of making Europe’s Ryder Cup team for September’s contest at Whistling Straits.

The Italian became the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in Paris in 2018, but has slipped to 144th in the world and is currently 42nd in the qualifying race.

“Unfortunately I had to withdraw this morning during my warm-up for an issue to my lower back,” the 38-year-old wrote on Twitter.

“I hope to get better quickly and be able to go back playing as soon as possible. Thanks everyone for the support.”

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