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TULSA, OKLAHOMA: Rory McIlroy threw his best first round at a major in 11 years on Thursday to take the lead in the PGA Championship while Tiger Woods struggled in his second comeback from serious leg injuries.

Seventh-seeded McIlroy, chasing his first major title since the 2014 PGA, shot a par 65 from 5 under to take a one-shot lead over Americans Will Zatoris and Tom Hoge with Americans Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar and the Mexican Abraham Ancer on 67.

Boosted by four straight birdies, matching his longest such run at a major, McIlroy delivered his best first round at a major since a 65 at the 2011 US Open, which he won for his first major title.

“It was a great start to the tournament,” McIlroy said. “It was nice to get that good start and kind of continue.”

McIlroy, a four-time major winner, started on the back nine with 15-time major winner Woods and Jordan Spieth in front of a huge crowd.

Woods, who last month returned to the Masters 14 months after a car accident left him unable to walk for months, birdied the par-3 10th and 14th but bogeyed on six of his final 10 holes to shoot 74 while Spieth, chasing a career Grand Slam victory, stumbled on a 72.

“It’s a good start,” Woods said. “Hit a lot of bad iron shots late. I just never got the ball close to having good birdie putts. I kept putting it in the wrong places.

“It was a frustrating day.”

McIlroy, who last led a major round at the 2014 PGA, had some major bad starts, but the Masters runner-up notched four straight birdies from the 12th to 15th hole.

The 33-year-old from Northern Ireland put his approach inches from the cut and birdied the par-4 12th, escaped from a bunker for a tap-in birdie at the par-5 13th and made a 26-foot birdie putt at the par-3 14th.

“When your game feels like that, it’s just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you can,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy sank a nine-foot birdie putt at 15 to take the solo lead and held it with par saves at 16 thanks to a two-foot chip and a six-foot putt at 18.

McIlroy sank a 14-foot birdie on the par-5 second and an 11-foot birdie on the par-5 fifth, but missed the green and bogeyed the par-3 sixth and par-3 eighth holes before closing on the ninth with a birdie putt just inside 19 feet.

Zalatoris, with four top-eight efforts in seven major starts, had a career-high 150 feet of putts, including birdie efforts of 30 feet in the ninth, 23 feet in the 12th, 26 feet in the 13th and 24 feet. on the seventh.

“It’s super fun whenever you have days like that,” Zalatoris said. “It was a bit of a weird day.”

Hoge, a winner in February at Pebble Beach, was also happy with his 66.

“I was doing pretty well and had ups and downs on all of them,” Hoge said. “It really gave me momentum to move forward.”

Thomas, the 2017 PGA winner, sank a 20-foot birdie putt at 18 to shoot within two of McIlroy.

“I would call any birdie over 18 a steal,” Thomas said. “To end the day with a three was a great bonus.”

Former world No 1 Woods, now ranked 818th, has admitted his surgically repaired right leg was “injured”.

“My leg doesn’t feel as good as I would like it to,” Woods said.

Three-time major winner Spieth made three bogeys in four holes from 15 en route to a 72.

The three highest ranked golfers in the world played together with above average results.

World No. 1 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler made the par-5 fifth but bogeyed five in the final 10 holes to shoot 71.

Second-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm, winner of the 2021 US Open, fired 73 shots while third-ranked American Collin Morikawa, defending British Open champion, birdied just one while shooting 72.

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