Sunday 18 February 2018

McIlroy digs deep to force his way into contention at FedEx finale

Rory McIlroy tees off at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Photo: Butch Dill/USA Today Sports
Rory McIlroy tees off at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Photo: Butch Dill/USA Today Sports

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy displayed the fighting spirit which Darren Clarke expects to see at the Ryder Cup by storming back from a horrid start to finish strongly in round one of the Tour Championship at East Lake yesterday.

McIlroy's fragile confidence in the greens looked to be shredded by a three-putt bogey on the first, a three-putt six on the par-4 seventh, and another double-bogey six at the eighth hole where he found water off his second shot.

On the positive side, his long and accurate driving and impressive approach play had set up three consecutive birdies on holes three through five.

Out in 37, two-over par for the nine, the galleries wondered what next for McIlroy on the homeward stretch. Would he sink without trace, or rise to the challenge?

The Northern Irishman safely negotiated the 10th and 11th holes in par, and then it was a case of 'hold on to your hat, here we go.'

Starting at the 12th, McIlroy reeled off four successive birdies - three threes, and a two on the 211 yards, par-3 15th.

He parred his way home to the 18th to finish with 68, two-under par, and then reflected on his day's work.

"I'm just happy that the score at the end of the day is under par, but I'm mixing a lot of bad with a lot of good.

Pretty good

"Seven birdies around this golf course is pretty good. Once I get a couple of birdies I get some confidence and momentum, and I go and get three in a row on the front nine, and four in a row on the back nine. More of the same tomorrow, I hope."

McIlroy views his putting as "a work in progress".

"I get on a run like this, and I can get some confidence, and I can see the line. I'm actually more comfortable on the breaking putts. I'm going to putt now and try to figure it out," he said.

Hideki Matsuyama and Kevin Chappell had each shot 66 to set the pace at four-under par, and were later joined by FedEx Cup rankings leader Dustin Johnson.

Jason Day shot 67, and Jordan Spieth worked hard for a 68.

Meanwhile Austria's Bernd Wiesberger shot 63, -8, to lead the Porsche European Open at Bad Griesbach in Germany.

Michael Hoey (67) and Padraig Harrington (71) were among the players who completed their rounds, but because fog delayed the start for over three hours, almost half the field have to finish round one this morning.

Porsche European Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 11.0am

The Tour Championship

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.0pm

Irish Independent

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