Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy walks the walk and other highlights of the first day at Southern Hills

Leader Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods striding out at Southern Hills on Thursday.
Leader Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods striding out at Southern Hills on Thursday.

You can tell by the way he uses his walk, to slightly paraphrase the Bee Gees.

It’s not quite as obvious a simmering volcano as, say, a Tyrrell Hatton. But Rory McIlroy’s body language always tells you a lot about his state of mind. Particularly that confident bounce in his stride when all’s going well.

He was strutting purposefully about Southern Hills on Thursday, even when a couple of bogeys might have derailed him late in his first round. Instead, he poached a birdie at his 18th (the 9th) for a lead and his best opening to a PGA since he last won, at Valhalla in 2014.

Confession: I thought that Rory’s generally iffy wedge play would mean he wouldn’t contend at Southern Hills, and I liked him more to break his major drought at the Old Course this July.

But why wait? The streakiest major player of the modern era sometimes gets wired in even to the parts of his game that aren’t always reliable.

It’s why a 64 or 65 is always possible for Rory, especially when he’s in a good vein of form like now. It can all go south rapidly, of course, but McIlroy is a confidence player and one of the best front runners there is in the game.

Just watch that bounce. The opposition can’t ignore it, mostly because they’re all trailing behind him.

Not the log-jam of top names we imagined

The leaderboard has thinned out a lot quicker than we expected. Justin Thomas was really the only other of the marquee names to keep McIlroy within plain sight.

The 2017 champion’s 67 was admirable for a bogey-free back nine of 32 after he’d quickly got to -2 and then slipped back again.

Will Zalatoris is closest to McIlroy, and holed an unfeasible number of mid-to-long range putts. The comparisons with Jordan Spieth in 2015 – when he seemed to hole everything between 10 and 30 feet – are valid.

Cam Smith isn’t too far away at two-under, and it was another wild ride with the Australian. Seven birdies, three bogeys and a double. Once he sorts out those frequent doubles off his card, look out. My pre-championship pick – on the basis that the best player yet to win a major often wins the PGA – Xander Schauffele is also on -2.

Favourite Jordan Spieth spluttered to a 72, but when the course was at its most playable. Those in the afternoon had it much tougher with gusting winds and heavily-trafficked greens.

When Scottie Scheffler bogeyed the ninth, I was struggling to recall the last time I’d seen him make a huge mistake. But although the seal was broken with four on the back nine, the World No 1 is far from dead at +1.

Especially if the draw gives early starters the advantage on Friday. Collin Morikawa (+2), Dustin Johnson (+3) and Jon Rahm (+3) will all be hoping the same thing.

A reality check for Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods feels the pain after a shot on his final hole on Thursday.

I kind of hoped Tiger Woods wouldn’t play at Southern Hills, for selfish, biased reasons.

We hoped – I imagine the R&A did – that he’d have kept his powder dry for the Open Championship, especially having declared he was definitely going to play at St Andrews.

Clearly, the novelty of him being back is eventually going to wear thin. Inevitably, the more obviously laboured and restricted he is, the quicker that happens.

You felt it coming on Thursday. A 74 in the circumstances was brave, resilient, exceptional and all that, but eventually we run out of superlatives for the mere fact he is doing this and wonder, why?

This was always going to be harder than Augusta. Not because the terrain is more difficult, but the playing conditions are.

There are nearly 60 more players in the PGA than the Masters. They take longer to get around on what is now, after course changes, a fairly slow-playing course.

The final holes of Tiger’s first round showed that in full. He could barely put stress on his damaged right leg at the end. Ice baths and epic physio will be needed even to make the first tee on Friday.

Not a great week for LIV so far

We were assured this week that we’d – FINALLY – get actual confirmation of those who are going to defy the main Tours and play in the LIV Golf International event in St Albans next month.

Well, so far we have only Richard Bland, the 49-year-old Englishman enjoying an unexpected Indian summer to a previously unremarkable career.

Blandy, to his credit and unlike others flirting with the Saudi riches, has at least been honest about his motivations. None of that ‘growing the game’ nonsense. He’s nearly 50, he knows this hot streak probably can’t last, and here’s a chance to secure his future.

Meanwhile, LIV has lost Sean Bratches, their chief commercial officer formerly of F1 and US network ESPN, who has unexpectedly resigned.

Bratches was widely regarded as LIV’s most impressive hire. There were many advocating for him to take over the helm before Greg Norman steered the project into another iceberg.

Also noted on Thursday, by Alex Miceli of Sports Illustrated, was that Lee Westwood – widely assumed to be LIV-bound but still not confirmed – has lost his 14-year association with sponsors UPS.

Sponsors’ input into this stramash has been overlooked. Westwood will probably make up the difference and more if he signs up to LIV. But we know at least one prominent Ryder Cup colleague balked at defecting when his sponsors threatened to dump him.