US Open champion
The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland matched Bradley, this year's PGA Championship winner, on four-under par 67 after the opening 18 holes in the two-day, $1.35 million showdown of the year's four major golf champions.
"To birdie three of the last five holes was great," McIlroy said. "Actually I hit the ball really well. I gave myself so many chances on the front nine and didn't really make anything. I started to hole a few putts on the back nine."
South African , the reigning Masters champion, was a distant third on 74 with Northern Ireland's , the British Open winner, last after struggling to a 77.
Keegan Bradley got off to a very hot start in the first round of the 36-hole PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda, but could not follow through on the back nine. His 4-under 67 at Port Royal Golf Course was good enough, however, to tie U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy for the halfway lead in the matchup of the four major winners in 2011.
McIlroy and the PGA champion are seven clear of Charl Schwartzel, whose 33-hour trip to Bermuda from South Africa may have taken a toll on him. Open champion Darren Clarke is 10 shots back of the lead pair.
Bradley made two eagles on the front nine par-5s along with three birdies to go out in 30. A couple of bogeys into the house had Bradley give back one of the eagles. The eagles, however, were the takeaway for the rookie.
“I hit a really great 6-iron to that pin [on the second], that back left pin, basically a tap-in and on my second one [at the seventh], I had 218, another 6-iron right at it. It was really two of the best shots I hit all year really, right at the pin the whole time,” he said.
McIlroy’s round was congruent compared to par, though the Ulsterman made just two birdies on the front side against four on the second nine.
“I gave myself so many chances on the front nine and didn’t really make anything. Started to hole a putts on the back nine but played very, very well,” he said.
The Masters champion was going nicely at 2 under until the 12th hole, which began a span where he dropped five shots to par. A triple bogey at the par-3 16th was the cap to the stretch after his tee shot went into a hazard.
Play was delayed briefly due to weather, though wind became the course’s primary defense. Schwartzel did not mind it, however – it wasn’t the culprit for his play.
He said, “I played Sunday and yesterday, and it was no wind whatsoever. And yeah, today a little bit more wind but still, it’s probably what this course needs. It was good to play a little bit of wind.”
Clarke was blunt in his assessment of his 78, saying, “It was crap. It was absolute crap. And I didn’t come all the way here to play that bad. So, obviously disappointed.”