Rory McIlroy’s spluttering, stuttering starts to major championships in recent years have often left him requiring snookers in a futile attempt to make up the lost ground.

On day one of the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills yesterday, though, the Northern Irishman got motoring like Hurricane Higgins clearing up the colours as he set a robust early target with a five-under 65.

Since winning the last of his four major titles in this very championship back in 2014 – yes, it’s that long ago – McIlroy has been a combined 35-over-par in the opening round of golf’s four grand slam events.

At April’s Masters, he found himself playing catch up after an opening one-over 73 before mounting a valiant salvage operation and claiming the runners-up spot with a rousing final day flourish. It was a familiar tale of what might have been.

In the marquee group yesterday with Tiger Woods and the career grand slam-chasing Jordan Spieth, McIlroy revelled in the limelight and dunted his playing partners so far into the margins they just about had to show the relevant passes and lanyards to get back in.

Spieth, the man in form, had to settle for an out-of-sorts two-over 72 while Woods, making his first appearance since his heroic Masters comeback and only a second competitive run after that shattering car crash, hirpled and grimaced his way to a 74.

There were no trials and tribulations for McIlroy, however, as he put together an eye-catching performance of power, poise, purpose and a fair dollop of polish. There may have been a time when he was intimidated by a grouping with Woods. Not on this outing, though. His 65 was his best start to a major since the 2011 US Open. And he won that by a country mile. It’s a visibly uncomfortable Woods who needs those snookers now.

An aggressive approach reaped plenty of rewards for McIlroy. It was, in many ways, a vintage display and the kind of energetic, captivating and bold offensive that brought him four majors title between 2011 and 2014. He’s not claimed one since but this was a significant statement of intent.

Four birdies in a row from the 12th – McIlroy started on the 10th – thrust him to the top. A brace of birdies at the second a fifth got him to six-under but the charge was tempered when he leaked shots on both the par-3s at six and eight.

McIlroy repaired some of that damage on his last hole, plonking a gap wedge from the rough to within 15-feet and trundling in the birdie putt. A vigorous pump of the fist underlined the importance of the moment. It had been a good day at the office. McIlroy bounded up to the recorder’s hut with a considerable bounce in his step. His strut was justified.

“Look, it was a great start to the tournament,” he said with a satisfied smile. “I’ve been playing well coming in here, been carrying some good form. Obviously I took a lot from the last round at Augusta (finishing with a 64 in the Masters), played well up in DC at the Wells Fargo and played good in the practice rounds earlier this week.

“When your game is feeling like that, it’s just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you possible can and of staying in your own little world. I did that really well.”

As McIlroy stamped his authority on affairs, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, another of the early starters, put on another impressive showing among the global elite and finished with a level-par 70.

The 25-year-old Oban lefty, who has made the cut in all eight majors that he has played in, made a sprightly start to his round and, having started on the back nine, found himself two-under through four holes. The Tulsa wind started to build on MacIntyre’s inward half and, despite leaking a couple of shots coming home, the young Scot was pretty content with his solid showing.

“On the back nine, it was a lot tougher, the holes were a lot longer, you had a lot more crosswinds, but, overall, we’ll take level par,” said the Scottish No 1. “Overall, my game is right there. It was a bit disappointing not to come off under-par, but I holed a nice one on my last, which is a bonus.”