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Aug 09, 2012, 10.46 PM IST
GOLF-PGA-CHAMPIONSHIP-MCILROY:McIlroy surges into early tie for lead at Kiawah
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Former U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy took advantage of ideal morning conditions to charge into an early tie for the lead in Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship.
In dazzling sunshine with light breezes coming in off the ocean at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the Northern Irishman birdied four of his first 11 holes to get to four under in the season's final major.
McIlroy, who won last year's U.S. Open by a staggering eight shots, sank a 12-footer to birdie his opening hole, the 10th, and also picked up shots at the 14th, 16th and second to join Swede Carl Pettersson atop the leaderboard.
Pettersson, who won his fifth PGA Tour title at the Heritage Classic in April, reached the turn in a flawless four-under 32 on the ultra-long, 7,676-yard Ocean Course after starting at the first.
Dane Thomas Bjorn, Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and long-hitting American Gary Woodland were among a group of six players knotted at three under while four-times champion Tiger Woods lurked a further stroke back.
Bjorn had completed 12 holes, Ishikawa and Woodland were each through 11 and Woods had eight remaining.
Most eyes, though, were on Woods who teed off at the 10th in pursuit of his 15th major title but his first since the 2008 U.S. Open.
After making an early birdie at the 12th, he bogeyed the 13th, after finding bunkers off the tee and also with his third shot, and the tricky par-three 14th, where he missed the elevated green to the left off the tee.
However, Woods immediately recovered by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th, sparking a cry of "beautiful" from a fan, before rolling in a 25-footer on the 18th green to prompt huge roars from the crowd crammed into the grandstands.
Woods also birdied the first to close within two shots of the lead on the longest layout to stage a major championship.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, who clinched last year's title in a playoff with fellow American Jason Dufner, made a fast birdie-eagle start but then slipped back to one under after 10 holes.
British world number one Luke Donald, Masters champion Bubba Watson and South African Ernie Els, winner of last month's British Open, were among the late starters at Kiawah Island.
Weather forecasts predicted a mix of sunny and cloudy conditions, along with heat and humidity, for the rest of Thursday with a chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Simon Evans)
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