McIlroy pays price for his aggression
PHIL MICKELSON delivered a clear statement of intent to Tiger Woods at Muirfield Village yesterday as he rediscovered a measure of his Masters-winning form during an impressive first-round 67 at The Memorial.
Mickelson, who'll knock Tiger off the top of the world rankings if he wins this week, eased to within two strokes of early clubhouse leader Justin Rose.
The Englishman, who has registered two top-four finishes at this tournament, bounced back from a bogey at the 10th, his first, to land eight birdies in a remarkable thunder-hit first round 65 in Dublin, Ohio.
Rose played super golf on a rain-softened Muirfield Village, saying patience and focus were the key on a golf course which he cautioned "can't be bullied," advice which Rory McIlroy would have done well to heed yesterday.
The splendidly aggressive youngster was two under par through 10 and purring into contention before hitting a brick wall, with two double-bogey sevens and a further dropped shot at the last hole of an incident-packed first-round 72.
After missing his first fairway of the day at 10, McIlroy then carved his tee shot into oblivion to the right of the par-five 11th hole, then took five shots to get down with the reload.
Undeterred, McIlroy got himself back into red figures by sinking an 18-foot birdie putt at 14. Yet he'd run slap into trouble at 15, blocking his overly aggressive approach into water to the right of the green; took a penalty drop and then put his next in the sand on his way to yet another seven.
The Holywood star has to be one of the most entertaining players in professional golf, as he proved by following up exciting birdies at 16 and 17 with a bogey out of a greenside bunker at 18 after he'd taken on the 150-yard approach to a tucked pin.
It was great to watch, albeit intensely frustrating for McIlroy himself.
If frustration had been the name of the game for Mickelson as he missed the cut for the first time in nearly two years at Colonial, the Californian suddenly started finding fairways with his driver yesterday, allowing him make impressive headway in ideal scoring conditions.
Mickelson, who won all nine skins he played in the annual pre-tournament spectacular staged on Wednesday by tournament host Jack Nicklaus, hinted he might be ready to post his first professional victory at a golf course where he won the US Junior Amateur in 1986.
He really kept the mojo going yesterday. Lefty had five birdies in a faultless round which put him in a tie for second in the clubhouse with Argentina's Andres Romero, South Africa's Rory Sabbatini, who hit all 18 greens for the first time on Tour, and American Michael Letzig.
Ernie Els slumped to a 74, while a struggling Tiger had to sink a 21 foot birdie putt for his first birdie of the tournament at nine as he turned in one-over.
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