Thursday 14 December 2017

McIlroy joins misfiring big guns as they reload for Open

Rory McIlroy has set his sights on redemption in the British Open after missing the cut at last week’s US Open. Photo: USA Today Sports
Rory McIlroy has set his sights on redemption in the British Open after missing the cut at last week’s US Open. Photo: USA Today Sports
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth set out on their version of the road to redemption in the aptly-named $6.8 million Travelers Championship at River Highlands CC in Connecticut starting tomorrow.

All three performed well below their expectations in the US Open at Erin Hills, with McIlroy and Day missing the cut and Spieth finishing tied-35.

Two Majors of 2017 gone, two to go, and it's time to get the metaphorical dirty petrol out of the system before the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale from July 20-23.

McIlroy, back to number three in the world rankings, Day (4) and Spieth (6) are among a cohort of 47 playing the Travelers event who competed in the US Open.

The Northern Irishman and his fans have fingers crossed that he gets an injury-free run through the rest of the summer.

Inactivity

McIlroy has played just 22 competitive rounds in 2017 due to two bouts of inactivity caused by a rib injury he first incurred in January at the SA Open.

From now on - assuming he suffered no ill-effects from his jousts with the high clinging rough at Erin Hills - McIlroy needs to impose himself on the game at the highest level, but patience is essential.

"It's just a matter of getting competitive rounds under my belt," he said. "I'm playing in Connecticut. I've got a nice run leading up to the Open Championship. I've got a busy summer, so I'm excited to play a lot of golf. I feel like that's going to help me to get back into contention, and hopefully try to win some of these things."

TPC River Highlands should offer plenty of good scoring opportunities. The par-70 course was smashed last year in the Travelers Championship by Jim Furyk, who recorded the first 58 in PGA Tour history, carding ten birdies and an eagle en route to a place in golf history.

Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power are the only other Irish players in the field. Harrington returns from a bizarre injury when an amateur golfer he was coaching in Washington DC smashed his driver into the three-time Major champion's elbow early this month.

Immediately after the impact, Harrington's first thought was that the elbow had shattered and his competitive career was over. Luckily, an X-ray and medical examination revealed nothing was broken. The wound required six stitches and Harrington withdrew from the FedEx St Jude Classic.

The Dubliner, like McIlroy, has endured an injury-affected first six months of the year, following an absence of three months recuperating from neck surgery.

Harrington wants to get some decent performances under his belt before the Irish Open in Portstewart and the return to Royal Birkdale where he won the second of his two Claret Jugs in 2007.

Seamus Power has played 17 tournaments to date on his PGA Tour rookie season, making 12 cuts and earning $339,156 (€304,818), leaving him 139th in the FedEx Cup standings. The West Waterford golfer finished tied-27 in his last event, the FedEx St Jude Classic.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson and his long-time caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay are ending their working relationship.

"After 25 very rewarding and memorable years, Bones and I have mutually decided to end our player-caddie relationship." Mickelson wrote in a joint statement released last night. "Our decision is not based on a single incident. We just feel it's the right time for a change."

The pair have captured five Major championships together among 41 total PGA Tour titles. Mickelson's brother Tim will carry his bag for the rest of this season.

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