Balky putter holding McIlroy back

10:50 PM ET

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — It is nowhere near as simple as making the hard part look easy and turning the simpler tasks into something far more difficult.

But that is basically what Rory McIlroy finds himself faced with at the moment as he hits plenty of good shots but can’t make the putts that would lead to good scores.

The two-time PGA Championship winner who is ranked fourth in the world couldn’t manage a single birdie Thursday at Baltusrol Golf Club, shooting a 4-over-par 74 that left him tied for 120th, 9 back of leader Jimmy Walker and searching for answers.

“I feel there’s been times where I got a little bit of momentum, and then sort of got set back a little bit,” McIlroy said before the tournament. “It’s been a little stop-start in a way. But it’s hard. I’m trying to stay as positive as I can. I feel like I am positive because my game is in good shape. But I guess just maybe running out of patience a little bit and trying to make it happen.”

That would have been understandable Thursday. It’s tough to continually hit long drives or good approaches and come up with nothing. McIlroy had six birdie chances inside 15 feet and made none of them. He missed a couple of makeable par putts, too.

There was not much more he could say other than he’d work on it.

“I’ll try to spend as much as I can,” he said. “Obviously it’s very hot out here. I’ll possibly just go back to the house that we rented, chill out a little bit, and maybe come back this evening and hit some putts when it cools off. Not that it cools off that much in the evenings.”

McIlroy’s putter might be the only thing that is cold around Baltusrol.

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