Monday 22 July 2019

McIlroy on a roll in Ohio

Rory McIlroy picked up seven birdies and two eagles to storm to the top of the leaderboard on the first day of Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

But the Northern Irishman, who won the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday, might have been five strokes clear of the field had he not spoiled his remarkable run over the back nine with a double bogey on the par-four 14th hole.

He rallied to card an impressive nine-under 63, while England's Paul Casey shot a six-under 66 earlier on Thursday to take a share of second place with Americans Bubba Watson and Chris Kirk.

McIlroy put the distress caused by his publicised break-up with Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki to one side last weekend to clinch a surprise victory at Wentworth and that winning momentum followed him to Muirfield Village.

Birdies on the second, fourth and seventh holes followed a run of two birdies and an eagle over the turn before he picked up a sixth shot on 13.

At eight under he was two strokes clear of the three men who had already carded 66, but briefly joined Casey and the American duo in a tie for the lead after finding the rear bunker on 14 and needing a total of six shots to hole out.

McIlroy remedied that situation immediately by draining a 15-foot putt to claim his second eagle of the day before adding one final birdie on the 16th.

Casey, currently 97th in the official world rankings, started with a bogey but reached the turn four under having drained an eagle on the par-five seventh.

He mixed three more birdies with a bogey between 14 and 17 while Kirk's seven birdies and a bogey kept him in sight of the lead.

Reigning Masters champion Watson might well have finished on eight under but dropped shots on 16 and 17.

Completing the formative top 10 are Keegan Bradley, Michael Thompson, JB Holmes, Hunter Mahan, Ryan Moore and Justin Leonard.

Most notable in the group of Americans was Bradley, who registered a bogey-free five-under 67 - recording only 27 putts - after making the switch from his favoured anchored putter to a non-anchored flatstick.

There were modest performances from 20-year-old hopeful Jordan Spieth, who signed for 69 after mixing five birdies with two bogeys, and Adam Scott.

The Australian's run of five birdies and a bogey across seven holes on the front nine was sullied by a double bogey on the ninth and, like Spieth, he lies six strokes off the early pace set by McIlroy.

PA Media

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