US PGA: McIlroy on hot form in Kentucky

Rory McIlroy ended the first day of the PGA Championship tied for second.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waves on the 18th green during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Rory McIlroy says his confidence in his game was proven on Thursday on day one of the US PGA Championship in Kentucky.

McIlroy shot five-under-par through 18 and is in a five-way tie for second spot behind the leaders.

The British Open champion reeled off four successive birdies from the 12th, where he hit his approach to five feet, then picked up another shot at the last hole for a five-under-par 66.

That left McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite who won the 2012 PGA Championship by a record eight shots at Kiawah Island, just one stroke off the lead held by Americans Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell, and England's Lee Westwood.

He says things changed for him at the 12th hole.

"Walking onto the 12th tee I was muttering a few things to myself. It was great just to hit that second shot the way I did, hit it in close, because it's one of the toughest par fours on the course. To hit the second shot in close and to knick birdie on that hole made me feel a little bit better".

He says he is feeling good about his game at the moment.

"You know whenever you're confident and have some momentum on your side, it's easier to do what I did, rather than when everything's sort of going against you and you're struggling for form and you have a little patch like that and it's not so easy to get on a birdie run again".

WESTWOOD STRATEGIC PLAN

Lee Westwood says some good strategic golf helped him take the lead at the tournament.

Westwood is in a three-way ties for top spot with Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell.

They are all six shots under heading into the second round today.

Westwood says his round was near flawless.

"I played well, hit a lot of fairways, putted nicely which is obviously what you need to do if you going to shoot a low score. But I gave myself a lot of chances, so all in all I thought there no real weaknesses out there."

Westwood says his practice rounds taught him a lot about the course...

"I only had three lots of nine holes, I tried not to do too much in the practice rounds because it felt the a golf course where it was all just there in front of you and you just played it as you see it. It didn't look to be too many tricks to it."

LESSONS LEARNT

Rickie Folwer says he can take a lot out of his first round at the Championship.

Fowler is four shots behind the leaders on two under.

He says he just wants to set himself up well instead of thinking about winning just yet.

"You can't win it on Thursday but you can obviously take yourself out of it so I am pleased with the way I got it around, came back from a rough start. A lot of good swings out there, I don't really think hit a putt of line, so I hit a lot of good puts with good speed and that is definitely pleasing."

Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson is a shot behind the leaders and says his good putting has placed him well.

"Probably you know with average putting I would have shot one or two under but it was really the blade that made the score for me. I made some great birdie putts, one or two long ones and a couple in between and some good par saves as well. The hard work on the putting green has paid off."