Monday 25 March 2019

Blemish-free McIlroy feels win is 'just a matter of time'

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the sixth tee during the first round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the sixth tee during the first round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy shot out of the gate in The Players Championship and insisted it's only a matter of time before he's back in the winner's enclosure.

The Holywood thoroughbred (29) posted only his second bogey-free round in 29 trips around the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, racing to a five-under 67 to share fifth place, two shots behind clubhouse leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley.

"I am playing good golf, and that's all that really matters," said McIlroy, who has started 2019 with five top-six finishes but won just once in nearly two and a half years and failed to win from the final group in his last nine attempts.

"Each time I give myself a chance I am learning more and getting more comfortable. It's just a matter of time."

Fleetwood and Bradley shot seven-under 65s to lead by one stroke in the clubhouse from South Korea's Byeong Hun An and left-hander Brian Harman as world number one Dustin Johnson posted a 69 and Tiger Woods holed over 100 feet of putts in a 70.

Shane Lowry was two-over par with four to play before eventually battling his way to a one-over 73.

After following a three-putt at the 17th (his eighth) with an 18 footer for birdie at the first, the Clara man three putted the fourth and bogeyed the fifth but then made a 36 footer for a two at the 233-yard eighth before finishing with a par five.

As for Seamus Power, he turned in one-under on his tournament debut, but dropped four shots in a five-hole stretch from the 10th before getting a shot back at the 16th in a two-over 74.

Experience proved invaluable to Michael Hoey as he opened with a five-under 66 to lie just two shots off the lead in the European Tour's Magical Kenya Open in windy Nairobi.

"I was five under after the first round in Kenya last year too - I'm not sure what it is about is about Nairobi!" said Hoey, who finished with three successive birdies to share fourth place behind England's Jack Singh Brar and South Africa's Louis de Jager.

"I have played a lot in Africa, so I am really used to the altitude here, I know how far the ball is going, and my caddy was really good today," added Hoey, who is seeking to regain his card with a sixth European Tour win. "I judged the wind really well as it was quite tricky today. It is very similar to Joburg, and I think having that experience will work to my advantage this week."

Gavin Moynihan dropped three late shots and signed for a one-over 72 to lie joint 54th as Tramore's Robin Dawson (23) posted a 12-over 83.

"I actually drove it pretty well, but my distance control with my irons into these greens has been pretty diabolical," Dawson said after mixing one birdie with five bogeys and four double-bogeys. "The course is very firm, so it's tough at this altitude to get it right and very tricky to get up and down from the Kikuyu grass around the greens.

"It's been windy too, so I'll take it as a learning experience."

  • Kenya Open, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0am
  • Players Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 5.0pm

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