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PGA Championship 2021: Rory McIlroy continued this troubling trend in majors on Thursday

May 20, 2021

Jamie Squire

As the old saying goes, you can't win a golf tournament on the first day, but you can lose one. Sadly, for Rory McIlroy, that's been a recurring theme in recent years.

That's not to say McIlroy totally shot himself out of the 2021 PGA Championship on Thursday, but he certainly didn't make hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy any easier by posting a three-over-par 75 at Kiawah's Ocean Course. And that disappointing score continued a troubling trend of getting off to slow starts in golf's four biggest events by the four-time major champ.

As 15th Club's Justin Ray noted following the first round, McIlroy is now a cumulative 35 over par in first rounds of majors since the beginning of 2015. In those other three rounds? He's 62 under par.

It's probably not a coincidence this stat starts after McIlroy won the final major of 2014. And while the 31-year-old recently snapped a slump at the Wells Fargo Championship, his winless drought in majors is nearing seven years. Not that that kept sportsbooks from making him the favorite this week at a course where he won by eight shots in 2012.

Just last month, McIlroy also opened with 75 at the Masters. He responded with scores of 66-67-69 to finish T-5. And perhaps most memorably, he hit his opening tee shot out of bounds at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush in his native Northern Ireland on his way to a 79. Even a second round 65 wasn't enough to make the cut.

McIlroy didn't talk to the media after signing his scorecard on Thursday, but he acknowledged this trend before the U.S. Open in September.

"If anything, if you’ve looked at my major championship performances over the last few years, I’ve just gotten off to slow starts,” McIlroy said at Winged Foot. "I probably just put a little too much pressure on myself going into tournaments. And from there, shooting a bad score on the first day and putting yourself under even more pressure from there to just make it to the weekend, and then to try to play catch-up. I think that’s been the big thing."

McIlroy's latest attempt to play catch-up begins Friday afternoon.