US PGA Championship: Holder McIlroy four behind at Oak Hill

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Defending champion Rory Mcllroy pleased with opening 69 at US PGA

US PGA Championship

Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York
8-11 August
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J Furyk (US), A Scott (Aus)
L Westwood (Eng), D Hearn (Can)
P Casey (Eng), R Garrigus (US), M Kuchar (US), S Piercy (US), M Fraser (Aus), J Day (Aus)
Selected: -2:
J Rose (Eng)
R McIlroy (NI), D Clarke (NI)
G McDowell (NI)
T Woods (US), P Mickelson (US), S Lowry (Ire)
P Harrington (Ire)
P McGinley (Ire)

Defending champion Rory McIlroy hinted at a return to form as he fired an opening one-under-par 69 which left him four off the pace after the opening day of the US PGA Championship.

McIlroy stormed to three under after four before his momentum was halted by successive bogeys after the turn.

Darren Clarke matched McIlroy's 69 while Graeme McDowell shot a steady 70.

Shane Lowry shot 71 but Padraig Harrington slumped to a 76 with Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley on 78.

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Graeme McDowell says he played solidly in his opening 70 at the US PGA which left him five off the pace at Oak Hill.

Masters champion Adam Scott and US veteran Jim Furyk both hit 65 which left them one ahead of Lee Westwood and Canada's David Hearn in the year's final major.

England's Paul Casey ended three under with Americans Robert Garrigus, Matt Kuchar and Scott Piercy and Australians Marcus Fraser and Jason Day.

Tiger Woods had to settle for a 71 after carding a double bogey at his final hole, the ninth, while Open champion Phil Mickelson was also on the same score.

Heavy rain overnight softened the course and made low-scoring possible, before play was suspended for just over an hour at 16:25 local time (21:25 BST) because of storms and the threat of lightning in the Rochester area of upstate New York.

Defending champion McIlroy, who won by a record eight shots last year, cut a different figure to the often disconsolate sight at the Open where he described his play as "brain dead".

"I got off to a really good start and was feeling good," he said. "Bogeys on 10 and 11 halted my momentum a little bit but overall one under isn't a bad start. I feel a lot sharper with my game.

"I had a chance to shoot a few lower there but anything in red figures on the first day of a major is not a bad thing."

McDowell mixed two birdies with as many bogeys while Clarke recovered impressively from two opening bogeys to card his 69.

The 2011 Open champion birdied the fourth, eighth and ninth to go out in 34 and while he dropped a shot at the par-three 11th, he picked up another stroke at the 14th before four closing pars.

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