Sport Golf

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Rory 'headed in right direction' as Irish Open defence looms

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the 18th green during final round of the Travelers Championship yesterday. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the 18th green during final round of the Travelers Championship yesterday. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy enters a week off in good spirits after shooting 64 to round off his debut in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, yesterday.

McIlroy's well publicised putting problems - he used three different putters in the tournament - detracted from his overall play which was quite impressive, but he now sets his sights on the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart on Thursday week.

An six-under par total left McIlroy well down the leaderboard, but the big positive is that he feels he has shrugged off the effects of the rib injury which has disrupted his season.

He was also happy with a round in which he hit 17 of 18 greens, racked up seven birdies and had only one bogey.

"I had an average putting day today which is an improvement on the last three days, but there's still room for improvement in that part of the game," he said. "At least today it's headed in right direction.

"It's kind of like the season's only started for me with all my injuries - it's been so stop-start.

"I get into a good run of events now. I've got three big ones for me back over in Europe, and then back over here (USA) for a number of big ones.

"I've got a World Golf Championship, two Majors and the FedEx Cup to think about so there's a lot of important stuff coming up and I feel my game's in good shape to try and contend again."

McIlroy will defend his Irish title, followed by the Scottish Open prior to challenging for the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale from July 20-23.

Padraig Harrington, also returning from injury at the Travelers, felt his game and his mental approach were coming together nicely, as he showed with a satisfactory comeback performance.

The three-time Major winner registered a final-round 68, joining McIlroy on six under.

He started with a three-putt bogey five on the first hole, and had another bogey at the par-fourth fourth, but birdies on eight and nine cancelled out the blemishes.

Bunker

Harrington's back nine yielded three birdies and a bogey.

The Dubliner made a great sand save for par at the 18th after playing his second shot out of rough into a greenside bunker.

Jordan Spieth had a one-shot lead overnight, and the destination of the title evolved into a battle between the Texan and Daniel Berger.

Berger, recent winner in Memphis, started the day three behind but shot 67 to post the target for Spieth at 12-under.

Spieth found the fairway on 18, but hit his second shot from 116 yards into a greenside bunker. He splashed out to inside three feet and holed the par putt for 70 to force a play-off with Berger.

And the two-time Major champion won with a sensational birdie three when he holed from the same bunker on the 18th, the first extra hole.

Meanwhile, the BMW International in Munich produced a fairytale finish for Andres Romero who held off the challenge of a group of contenders for the title, including Masters champion Sergio Garcia.

Romero's round caught fire on the back nine at Golfclub München Eichenried as he clocked up five birdies to get home in 31 and finish with 65 for 17 under.

The Argentinian had been tied for the lead with Richard Bland, Thomas Detry and Garcia with three holes to play, but he held his nerve to win for the first time in ten years on the European Tour.

A birdie on the last got Romero home in 65, and he then watched as each of the other three failed to match or better his score.

Elsewhere, Gavin Moynihan of The Island had a final-round 67 for five under overall in the Made in Denmark Challenge.

Oscar Stark of Sweden sealed a maiden European Challenge Tour victory with a birdie for 69 and a winning 14 under at Royal Oak Golf Club.

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