Wednesday 17 July 2019

Rory McIlroy fails to capitalise at Farmers Insurance Open as red-hot Rahm leads way

Rory McIlroy made just one birdie going out, holing a 10 footer for an excellent three at the fifth.
Rory McIlroy made just one birdie going out, holing a 10 footer for an excellent three at the fifth.

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy had to dig deep on his seasonal debut as Spain's Jon Rahm lit up the Farmers Insurance Open with a blistering 10-under 62 at Torrey Pines.

As the Northern Ireland star chiselled out a workmanlike one-under 71 on the testing, 7,698-yard South Course, 2017 champion Rahm (24) ripped up the more benign North Course, making the first of two eagles at his opening hole and adding seven birdies to match the lowest round of his PGA Tour career.

"When you go South on the first day you are trying to survive," said Rahm, who was started on the 10th and turned with a seven-under 29 before following his only dropped shot of the day at the third with four birdies in a row from the fifth. "But on the North Course, you have to shoot under par... I just kept the pedal down."

Despite three-putting his final hole for a par-five, he led by a shot in the clubhouse from world number one Justin Rose and Tour graduate Doug Ghim, who posted nine-under 63s as Jordan Spieth carded a 65.

But it was a grind for McIlroy and even for Tiger Woods, who opened his 2019 account with a 70 at the venue where he has won eight times.

The Co Down man made just one birdie going out, holing a 10 footer for an excellent three at the fifth.

But he failed to take advantage of the par-fives, missing from 10 feet after a heavy-handed chip at the sixth before lipping out cruelly from six feet at the ninth.

A poor pitch from the rough short at the 598-yard 13th forced to settle for another five but while he bogeyed the 225-yard 16th after failing to get up and down from greenside sand, he successfully splashed out to four feet at the 18th to finish with a birdie.

Woods showed signs of ring rust in his first official start since his Tour Championship win last year, hitting just half the fairways, but he birdied the last on his way to a two-under par round of 70.

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It was also a trying day for Seamus Power, who opened with a four-over 76 on the easier North Course and faces his sixth missed cut in a row and his seventh in eight starts since the season began in October.

But there was better news for the Irish on the European Tour, as Shane Lowry opened with a three-under 69 in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

After brilliantly breaking his three-and-a-half year victory drought in last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the Offaly man hit the mental reset button and came up trumps with his first sub-70 round at the Emirates Golf Club since 2012.

He trailed Matthew Fitzpatrick by four strokes, rifling his approach to just 12 inches at the tricky, 463-yard ninth to end the day tied for 31st.

"I am usually in America at his time of year so a change this year is nice," added Lowry, who got to four-under after 13 holes and then followed back to back bogeys at the fifth and sixth with two closing birdies.

"It obviously did me a world of good last week, and maybe I can continue on and do something good this week as well."

Greystones' Paul Dunne, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, finished with two bogeys for a two-under 70 that left him tied for 44th.

Fitzpatrick birdied five in his final six holes en route to a seven-under 65 and a one-stroke lead over an eight-man group that included 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia and world number five Bryson DeChambeau.

Meanwhile, Belfast's Damian Mooney is the best of the Irish heading into the final round at the First Stage of the Staysure Tour Qualifying School in Portugal.

His level par 72 left him tied ninth, five shots behind American John Inman and inside the top 20 who will go on to join the likes of Headfort's Brendan McGovern at next week's Final Stage battle for just five cards.

Royal Curragh's Gerry Burke was tied 15th after a 74 with Ballybunion amateur Peter Sheehan tied 22nd after a 75, Kilkenny's Jimmy Bolger joint 31st with 76 and County Sligo amateur Shane Underwood tied 35th after a five-over 77.

American Ernest Kocs was the pacesetter with a four-under 66 at the other qualifying venue, Silves Golf.

  • Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Sky Sports Golf 7.30am
  • Farmers Insurance Open, Sky Sports Golf 8.0pm

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