VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy made almost the perfect start to the $7 million BMW PGA Championship. He finished one shot better than he did in 2014 when he won, and that bodes well for the former world number one.
McIlroy made seven birdies and dropped two shots in his opening 67, his best start in this event, to sit two strokes off the lead held by Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard.
“I drove the ball much better and put the ball in play off the tee a lot more than I’ve done the last couple of weeks,” McIlory said. “I gave myself a lot of chances. I took most of them. A little frustrated I couldn’t get a birdie or two out of the last couple of holes but, overall, a really good start.”
The Northern Irishman used his 2014 victory as a stepping stone to winning the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, the PGA Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. His game isn’t quite fully in sync, but the rest of the golf world should be worried about déjà vu.
“I wasn’t that comfortable with my game when I won here in 2014,” McIlroy said. “I kicked on from that and improved, and I went on to do what I did that summer. It’s getting there. It’s moving in the right direction.”
McIlroy has already won this season, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, he finished poorly in the Masters with a Sunday 74, despite getting into the last pairing with eventual winner Patrick Reed. He also missed the cut at The Players.
He used his time off after The Players to get in a good practice session with long-time coach Michael Bannon. Another one followed on the eve of the first round.
“I’m trying to get back to what I used to do,” McIlroy said. “I used to attack it from the inside with the driver and be able to hit a nice little draw, and I really haven’t been able to turn the ball over all this year. It’s been a lot of upper body. I’m just trying to get back to familiar feelings I’ve had in the past.”
Including winning feelings. No wonder British bookmakers list McIlroy as a 3-1 favorite to win.