The $15 million race is on: Rory McIlroy finds putting touch to keep FedEx Cup bonanza in his sights
Rory McIlroy birdied three of his last six holes to remain in contention for the Tour Championship and the $15 million FedEx Cup bonanza.
The Holywood star missed just three greens at 7,346-yard East Lake and despite missing a tough chance at the last, he found his putting touch after a lesson from Brad Faxon and carded a four-under 66.
He started the new-look tournament five strokes behind Justin Thomas on five-under.
But he ended the opening day tied alone in fourth on nine-under, just a shot behind leaders Thomas, Xander Schauffele and world number one Brooks Koepka with the top-10 covered by just four shots.
McIlroy turned in one-under-par, then mixed a good par save from nine feet at the 14th with birdies from short range at the 13th, 15th and 17th thanks to some corrections made by Faxon.
Schauffele, who started six behind on four-under, fired six-under 64 to set the target at 10-under before being joined by Koepka, who shot 67. Thomas struggled but birdied the last for a 70.
At home, Damien McGrane drew on his vast experience to claim his second Irish PGA title in four years at Bunclody Golf and Fishing Club.
The former European Tour winner had enough with a level par 72 to turn a four-shot overnight lead into a one-stroke win on seven-under-par.
"I'm glad to win it for a second time," said McGrane (48), who mixed 16 pars with a birdie at the first and a lone bogey at the 15th "It's a stepping stone. I'm nearly 50 and I'm hoping I will be in good shape to be able to compete on the Seniors Tour."
Derry native Michael McGeady shot a best-of-the-week, eight-under 64 to finish second on six-under as Banbridge's Richard Kilpatrick took third in five-under after a 66.
There were also birdies galore in Sweden on a mixed day for the Irish in the Scandinavian Invitation.
Australian Wade Ormsby shot an eight-under 62 to lead by a shot from Alexander Levy and Joakim Lagergren with Gavin Moynihan joint 35th after a one-under 69.
Michael Hoey shot a two-over 72, but it was a disappointing, rollercoaster day for Paul Dunne.
The Greystones man made an eagle, three birdies, five bogeys, a double bogey and a quadruple-bogey seven in a six-over 76, covering his back nine in 42 blows.
It was far better for Dunne's former Walker Cup teammate Cormac Sharvin, who went bogey-free for the second day running in the Challenge Tour's Rolex Trophy in Geneva.
Ranked ninth in the race for 15 European Tour cards, the Ardglass man (26) followed his opening 68 with a six-under 66 to share fifth with Ben Stow on 10-under at halfway.
He's three strokes behind Nicolai von Dellingshausen, who blasted a 10-under 62 to lead by two shots from Scotland's Calum Hill, Poland's Adrian Meronk and Portugal's Ricardo Santos on 13-under.
On the LPGA Tour, Stephanie Meadow built on the momentum of her ISPS Handa World Invitational win, opening with a one-under 71 to lie five behind Brooke Henderson in the CP Women's Open in Canada.
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