Friday 30 September 2016

McIlroy in a battle to sort out his putting

William S Callahan

Published 03/09/2016 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy reacts on the 15th tee during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy reacts on the 15th tee during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Rory McIlroy is taking a long-term view of his putting woes but Europe's captain Darren Clarke will hope to see a dramatic improvement on the greens by the time the Ryder Cup starts at Hazeltine on September 30.

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McIlroy has committed to working with putting coach Phil Kenyon and is prepared for an eight-month stint of hard work with the aim of curing his problems in time for the 2017 Masters.

It's fair to say he hopes to get that department of his game in good working order long before next April, but his hard-earned level-par 71 in the opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston yesterday would not have comforted skipper Clarke.

Starting on the 10th tee, McIlroy suffered a three-putt bogey four on the 11th hole, his second, and worse was to come with a treble-bogey seven on the 12th.

This was ugly and gut-wrenching stuff.

It started when McIlroy carved his ball into trouble off the tee and got worse when he had to take a penalty drop en route to a seven.

The fans could scarcely believe their eyes - McIlroy at four-over par for the tournament after just three holes? What next?

Credit it to him, the inner champion in the Northern Irishman came to the fore, and he holed from eight feet for a battling birdie three at the 13th, his fourth hole.

A string of pars followed before the second birdie of the day fell his way, with a four on the 18th to turn in two-over.

McIlroy kept grinding while all around him a veritable birdie-fest had broken out.

England's Paul Casey and Fabian Gomez of Argentina set the pace early in the day to take the clubhouse lead at five-under par. They were later overtaken by James Hahn and Ryan Moore who both shot 65.

The top end of the leaderboard became clogged with almost half of the 99-man field within a couple of shots of the leaders in late afternoon.

Through it all, McIlroy held his patience and began to pick away at his deficit. Birdies on the first and seventh, his 10th and 16th holes pegged him back to level-par and that's how he finished the round.

Olympic champion Justin Rose was bracketed in a group on 68, three-under par, which included Claret Jug winner Henrik Stenson and US PGA title holder Jimmy Walker.

Also on three-under were Patrick Reed, winner last week of The Barclays, the first event in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and US Open champion Dustin Johnson.

Focused

Graeme McDowell, whose son, Wills Edson, was born on Monday, did his best to keep his mind focused on golf, and shot 74, three-over par.

Meanwhile, Danny Willett who won the Green Jacket at Augusta in April, was the only Major champion of 2016 marked absent from the Deutsche Bank tournament.

Willett stayed in Europe to play the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre, and yesterday shot a two-over-par 72 for a three-under-par total of 137.

That left him six shots behind joint leaders Richard Bland of England, Richard Green of Australia, and 2015 Amateur champion Romain Langasque, all on nine-under par.

Langasque, 21, playing in only his fifth European Tour event, hit the high notes in the Alps with a magnificent 63.

Bland shot 64, and Green got around the spectacularly scenic course in 65. The trio of Irish players all missed the cut, which fell at level-par.

Michael Hoey shot 73 for four-over; Paul Dunne's 74 pushed him to six-over par, while Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke took 76 for 14-over.

Omega European Masters, Live, Sky Sports 4, 12.0pm

Deutsche Bank Championship, Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.30pm

Irish Independent

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