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Home > Schauffele Shoots Superb 62 With Scheffler And McIlroy In The Mix

Schauffele Shoots Superb 62 With Scheffler And McIlroy In The Mix

Rory McIlroy is craving for deja vu to be the order of his week at this 106th USPGA Championship and even this early in proceedings the prospects appear that he could be drowning in the glorious stuff come Sunday.

First off, there is the fact that the most recent of his four major titles came here at Valhalla, 10 years ago, and the same as then, McIlroy started with a six-under 65 in Thursday’s first round. The world No 2 did not drive well, but his scrambling verged on the otherworldly and if his renowned long game reverts to type other the next three days, his rivals should truly be worried.

Secondly, the pacesetter happens to be Xander Schauffele and it was the American who McIlroy chased down in brutal fashion last week to win at another of his favourite stamping grounds, Quail Hollow.

Schauffele made history here by becoming the first male golfer to shoot two 62s in the majors, having also equalled the lowest round in the Big Four at last year’s US Open. There have only been four 62s in the 164 years of the majors Schauffele, the world No 3, has two of them.

And thirdly, the last time McIlroy’s personal life dominated the headlines like this, he happened to win that week.

McIlroy once again declined to discuss the divorce papers that were filed on Monday, but despite any unease felt by observers, it is almost impossible not to hark back to the 2014 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth when he broke up with former tennis world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki after the wedding invites had been sent out and somehow managed to block out that personal turmoil and the resulting publicity to prevail at Wentworth.

“It’s always nice to be inside the ropes,” McIlroy replied when asked on Thursday if it was nice to be able to concentrate on golf, before batting away the follow-up about his ability to compartmentalise. “I’m happy to be here.”

The Kentucky crowd were delighted to have him, as they turned out in huge numbers and with rousing voice. Tiger Woods was in the group immediately ahead of McIlroy and although his one-over 72 finished in dispiriting style – with two three-putt bogeys – the 2000 winner here produced enough short-game quality to suggest he could survive the cut.

However, apart from the juicy rough, these were benign conditions following the rains earlier in the week. Valhalla is long and the putting surfaces are small, but it does not matter. Give these guys soft greens and the contest invariably turns into a birdie-fest, regardless how mischievously the organisers try to tuck the pins.

“The greens are really, really soft,” McIlroy said. “So second shots are easier and chip shots are easier. It’s just a little less challenging at the minute. I could see the greens getting a touch firmer, but I still think it’s going to be pretty low scoring.”

McIlroy was pleased with his score, but not with his ball-striking. “I sort of felt like it was pretty scrappy for the most part,” he said. “I don’t really feel like I left many out there.”

Indeed, it was the opposite. There was a chip in on the sixth – his 15th hole of the morning after starting on the 10th – and so many ups-and-downs. After birdieing the 10th and 13th, he bogeyed the 17th and found the water off the tee on the par-five 18th. But he saved par after hitting his fourth from 120 yards to seven feet. “That was huge,” he said. McIlroy played the front nine in four-under, with three birdies in a row from fifth (his 14th). “I got a lot out of my game today and am pleased with that score,” he said.

Of course, McIlroy will be impressed by Schauffele’s record-breaking effort – his nine-under magnificence was the lowest ever in the USPGA – but the chase will not worry him. Not after McIlroy turned a four-shot deficit into a five-shot win against Schauffele at Quail Hollow. HE is earning a reputation for not being able to finish off tournaments TGAR he apparently has in his grasp.

Since his last win two years ago, Schauffele has compiled 21 top 10s, including nine this year. He is a fine run of form and trying to make his failure to add to his trophy cabinet his driving force. “Not winning makes you want to win more, as weird as that is” he said. “For me, at least,

I react to it, and I want it more and more and more, and it makes me want to work harder and harder and harder.”

Schauffele, who also started on the 10th, went out in five-under and kept his foot down coming in. Mr 62 was delighted but also determined not to get ahead of himself.

“It feels great,” Schauffele said. “It’s just day one but if someone had said I was going to shoot nine-under I would certainly have taken it. I’ve been playing some really good golf, having a lot of close calls, so me and my team say why not keep chugging along? I’m very happy with the way I played but I can’t really think much more about it, just got to go and tee it up again tomorrow.”

Despite his heroics, Schauffele, the reigning Olympic champion, is only three clear of compatriots Tony Finau and Sagith Theegala, with Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre alongside McIlroy after his own 66. Defending champion Brooks Koepka is one further back.

There is some deja vu McIlroy will be desperate to avoid. In his last five tournaments Scottie Scheffler has win four times – including last month’s Masters – and finished runner-up in the other.

The world No 1 took three weeks off because of the birth of his and wife Meredith’s first baby, Bennett, but resumed in spectacular style when holing his second shot from 167 yards from the fairway for an eagle on the first. The roars of astonishment reverberated across Kentucky. He eventually carded a four-under 67. Scheffler eventually carded a four-under 67.

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Schauffele shoots superb 62 with Scheffler and McIlroy in the mix: As it happened