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Golf’s biggest stars going in opposite directions

Golf’s biggest stars going in opposite directions

GOLF: Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits from the fairway on the 18th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Thursday, Aug. 7, in Louisville, Ky. Photo: Associated Press/Mike Groll

PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) β€” The divide between golf’s two biggest names just keeps growing.

There’s Rory McIlroy, shooting another round in the 60s and looking very much like the man to beat at the PGA Championship.

Then there’s Tiger Woods, spraying shots all over Valhalla and now most concerned with making it to the weekend.

Clearly, they are two players heading in very opposite directions.

“I’m really happy with everything,” said McIlroy, who opened with a 5-under 66 on Thursday despite one bad swing that led to a double bogey. “I’ve got a good thing going right now.”

Woods can’t get anything going.

Just four days after withdrawing at Firestone because of back pain, he shot a 3-over 74 that included only one birdie β€” and he had to hole out from the fairway to do that.

“It wasn’t very good,” Woods said.

He faced a daunting nine-shot deficit heading to the second round. Lee Westwood, Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell all shot 65 on a day when plenty of players went low, taking advantage of a course that was soft and gentle.

Coming off wins at the British Open and at Firestone, McIlroy likely would’ve had the lead all to himself if not for his second shot on the par-5 10th hole. He hooked it over a fence and out-of-bounds, leading to a 7. Still shaken, he made a three-putt bogey on the next hole. Then, just like that, he bounced back with four straight birdies to get right back into the mix.

“Whenever you are confident and you have some momentum on your side, it’s easier to do what I did,” he said.

It was his 11th straight round under par, and his third straight round of 66.

Westwood followed up a season-best 63 in the final round at Firestone by matching his best score in a major championship. He made nine birdies, helping offset a double bogey of his own.

“I’ve played better rounds of golf, but I was really pleased,” he said. “I hit a lot of quality iron shots, and it felt like 65 was a fair enough score for the way I played. I got a couple of bad breaks out there, but I rolled a couple of putts in that you probably wouldn’t expect to hole.”

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