PGA Championship 2021: Rory McIlroy stumbles in return to Kiawah

·2-min read

It's never a good sign when everyone else on the tee is pointing wide right after your shot. But that's exactly what happened with Rory McIlroy on his very first shot of the PGA Championship. 

Once again, McIlroy rolled into a major as the favorite. Once again, he stumbled out of the gate. Playing off the 10th tee, McIlroy put his very first shot into the water along the right side of the hole, and had to scramble his way off a cart path to fight his way to a bogey. 

In typical McIlroy fashion, he fought his way right back, getting birdies the next two holes. But that was only the start of McIlroy's adventures, and when it was done, he was sitting at +3, already eight strokes back of the lead.

Kiawah's par 5s were Rory's poison; he birdied one but bogeyed the other three. He played alongside Justin Thomas, who also struggled on the day to a similar +3, and Brooks Koepka, who didn't, ending the round tied for second at -3.

Not great, Rory. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Not great, Rory. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

McIlroy came into the PGA Championship as an odds-on favorite at +1100, based on the fact that he'd just won at the Wells Fargo earlier in the month, as well as the fact that he'd won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah by an impressive eight strokes. But the Wells Fargo win came after 19 winless months, months in which his game looked a whole lot like the bust-boom-bust struggle of Thursday. Consequently, McIlroy's odds to win at BetMGM have dropped to +4000.

It's the latest in years of first-round struggles at majors for McIlroy. Since 2015, he's -62 in the second through fourth rounds of majors ... but 35-over in the first round. That might explain why McIlroy hasn't won a single major in that span. 

There's hope for McIlroy, however. In 2012, he also posted a 75 — in the second round. With the swirling winds and grasping rough bedeviling players up and down the leaderboard, the opportunity is there for McIlroy to erase this particular misfire over the next few days. But the margin for error is already gone. 

Rory McIlroy's got work to do to get back in this. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy's got work to do to get back in this. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook at @jaybusbee or contact him at

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