Rory McIlroy off the pace as big guns launch FedEx Cup challenge
Rory McIlroy came to the BMW Championship hoping for a fast start, but he ended up stalled in second gear at Conway Farms GC near Chicago.
FedEx Cup title holder McIlroy signed for a 72, one-over par, leaving him the proverbial mountain to climb if he is to haul himself from 51st in the rankings to top-30 or better by Sunday evening.
It's virtually an impossible task from where he finished, especially given the pace set by clubhouse leader Marc Leishman of Australia.
Leishman's performance in carding a 62 for nine-under par showed that birdies were available on this Tom Fazio-designed course, but not to McIlroy - at least, not in the numbers he required to lay the foundations for a serious challenge.
His round began with a six at the first for double-bogey when he had to take a penalty drop after hitting his approach shot from 109 yards into a hazard. It ended with a six on 18, this time for bogey.
In between the performance was mixed. Five birdies, four bogeys, including that one on 18, and no extended surges of momentum kept McIlroy well down the leaderboard and effectively out of the conversation as far as this year's FedEx Cup destination is concerned.
Ahead of him, the big names jostled for position as they chased Leishman.
Jordan Spieth, currently number one in the FedEx Cup rankings, posted a 65 to join Keegan Bradley in the clubhouse as the Aussie's closest challengers but feels there is room for improvement.
"I really stole a few shots today. I made a few putts from off the green and a couple of kind of ridiculous up and downs. The scorecard is clean but it wasn't exactly the cleanest 65," said Spieth.
The evergreen Phil Mickelson, 47, showed his competitive drive has not diminished with a bogey-free 66 for five-under par.
Justin Thomas, US PGA champion and winner of the Dell Technologies tournament in which McIlroy missed the cut, played solidly for a 67.
Meanwhile, Pádraig Harrington's return to competitive golf after a three-week break fell foul of the weather as play was abandoned in the KLM Open at The Dutch in Spijk, Holland yesterday.
Harrington (pictured) was level-par for five holes of his opening round when Tour officials called a halt due to driving rain and strong winds which made the course unplayable.
Paul Dunne, the only other Irishman in the field, got through three holes and was one-over par when the hooter sounded for the stoppage.
By that stage almost half the field had played a full round, with the joint clubhouse lead being held by Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, and Englishman Richard Finch, a former Irish Open champion.
Both of them carded 66, five-under par, to lead by a shot from closest challengers Joakim Lageren (Sweden) and Wu Ashun (China).
The bad weather across Europe forced the Evian Championship, the LPGA/LET's fifth Major, to be reduced to 54 holes. Media commentators and some players criticised the move. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said: "While we did not make this decision lightly, we believe this is the right decision to have the fairest, most competitive tournament for all players in this field."
None of the players had completed nine holes, so the first round was discarded, and the same tee-times apply for today.
- BMW Championship, Live, Sky Sports Golf, 8.0pm
- KLM Open, Live, SS Golf (Red Button) 10.30am
- Evian Championship, Live, Sky Sports Golf, 10.0am