Rory McIlroy in the mix at 2023 PGA Championship after incredible par save jumpstarts back-nine turnaround

Rory McIlroy’s start to the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill was less than ideal.

After making five pars to open, the 2012 and 2014 PGA winner failed to get up-and-down on the par-3 15th — his sixth hole of the day — and had to settle for bogey. He’d add two more squares to the card on Nos. 17 and 18 and made the turn with a 3-over 38.

A substandard pitch from the front of No. 2 green left him in a treacherous spot from over the back and all of a sudden McIlroy was staring a double bogey in the face.

Until he wasn’t.

The four-time major winner canned a 37-foot putt from the collection area and walked to the third tee box with an unlikely par.

Par save & a beauty @McIlroyRory | #PGAChamp

— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 18, 2023

“It was massive,” he said of the made putt. “I don’t know how — depending on what happens over the next three days and what I go on to do, you know, I may look back at that shot as being the sort of turning point of the week.”

McIlroy then stuffed his tee shot on the par-3 third to two feet for a tap-in birdie then laced a 347-yard drive on the par-5 fourth and would go on to make another easy bird.

He’d trade a bogey at No. 5 for a circle at No. 8 and the Northern Irishman finished his round with a 1-over 71.

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“Didn’t hit the ball well at all,” he said. “Thought I did really well to shoot what I did.”

The start McIlroy was looking for? No. But the fight to get back into the tournament was noteworthy. The driver put him behind the eight ball all day, finding just two of 14 fairways. On top of that, McIlroy lost 1.5 strokes to the field on the greens.

“Just not at my best. I’m just struggling with my swing,” he said when asked about the missed fairways. “Yeah, it’s pretty messy out there, so just trying to make pars.”

Although he may want to use Thursday afternoon as a clean-up-the-game range session, McIlroy is dealing with an illness.

After a “messy” and “erratic” round of 71, Rory says he’s battling some kind of illness. Whoop showed a 22% recovery overnight but actually felt better today than Wednesday.

— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) May 18, 2023

With a scarcity of low scores thus far in Rochester, New York, McIlroy is firmly in the mix at 1 over.