Coming off wins in his last two starts, Rory McIlroy was clearly the hottest player entering the PGA Championship.
The 2012 PGA Champion was on his way towards the lead with a solid front nine, but the first two holes on the back nine nearly derailed McIlroy.
He had three birdies on the front side to move within three of the lead. However, he knocked his second shot out of bounds on No. 10 and that led to a double-bogey. McIlroy followed with a 3-putt bogey at the 11th to fall back to even-par and he was suddenly six strokes back.
McIlroy rebounded with a 5-foot birdie putt on 12 and he made a 6-footer on No. 13. He poured in a 30-footer for birdie at 14 to get back to minus-3.
The Open Champion dropped his approach within five feet at the 15th and he knocked that in for birdie. McIlroy climbed within one of the lead with a 2- putt birdie at the 18th.
McIlroy could have led by himself as his birdie putts on 16 and 17 narrowly missed falling into the hole.
"I think one of the big things for me, especially in major championships is getting off to good starts and being right up there at the start. I have been able to do that today," McIlroy said. "You see guys out there this morning shoot 5- and 6-under par. You know that there are scores out there. There's opportunities. There's definitely birdies out there to be had."
FURYK STARTS STRONG
Jim Furyk has been struggling to close tournaments in which he led entering the final round. He has lost his last seven 54-hole leads.
One of those was at last year's PGA Championship, where Jason Dufner rallied to beat Furyk. Despite his final round struggles, Furyk keeps putting himself in contention.
Furyk has three runner-up finishes this season, and has finished inside the top-15 in the season's first three majors.
The 2003 U.S. Open champion opened his round with four straight pars from the 10th. He birdied the par-3 14th from 12 feet out, then parred his next four as well.
Furyk poured in a 29-footer for birdie on the first, his 10th, to move to 2- under. He ran off five pars in a row from the second.
At the par-5 seventh, Furyk played his third inside eight feet and made that putt for birdie. He followed with a short birdie putt on No. 8. Furyk capped his round by draining a 36-footer for birdie at the ninth to end one back of the leaders.
* Steve Flesch started the week as the 93rd alternate, but nearly got into the field. He was on site doing work with the Golf Channel and was told he was next in line if anyone withdrew. How did that happen? John Huh replaced Matt Kuchar, then the rest of the alternates had either left Valhalla or weren't there to begin with. Alas, no one from the afternoon wave withdrew and Flesch didn't get into the field.
* PGA Club Professional Brian Norman hit the first tee shot, while fellow Club Professional Frank Esposito made the first birdie of the championship.
* The par-5 18th was the easiest hole in round one as it played to an average of 4.63 strokes.
* The par-4 second was the most difficult hole in round one as players averaged 4.45 strokes on that hole.