Tuesday 12 December 2017

McIlroy struggles as McDowell prospers

Graeme McDowell held a share of the lead after round one in Miami (AP)
Graeme McDowell held a share of the lead after round one in Miami (AP)

All eyes had been on Rory McIlroy in the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but it was another Northern Irishman who claimed a share of the lead in the £5.8million event in Miami.

McIlroy struggled to an opening 73 in his first appearance since controversially withdrawing from the Honda Classic last week midway through his second round.

But the 23-year-old's good friend and Ryder Cup partner Graeme McDowell carded a six-under-par 66 to join Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Fredrik Jacobson at the top of a world-class leaderboard, with Peter Hanson and Phil Mickelson among those one off the lead and the likes of Ian Poulter and defending champion Justin Rose a stroke further back on four under.

"It's a lot of fun," McDowell said, despite having to pay playing partner Garcia for a bet made on Manchester United's Champions League defeat to Real Madrid.

"You are playing against the best players in the world and in a no-cut scenario it's important to get up to the business end of things as early as you can in the week because you can quickly lose your way in this event and be out with the dead men early on Saturday and Sunday.

"That's not where you want to be, you want to get off to a fast start and be in there tussling for the lead and I am very pleased with that opening effort."

The same could not be said of McIlroy, although the world number one at least lived up to his promise to grind out a score when not playing well after walking off the course after playing eight holes in seven over last Friday.

McIlroy, who is an approximate 18 over par in 2013, told Sky Sports 3: "It was a bit of a struggle to be honest. I hit some good shots, I hit some not-so good shots. As I have been saying all week this is a work in progress, I am staying patient and I have another three rounds to work on it more and shoot a few good scores.

"It was nice to sneak in a couple of birdies in the last three holes and make it look somewhat respectable, even though everyone seems to be going pretty low out there; it was a day where it was perfect scoring conditions.

"I wasn't putting as much pressure on myself and that's why I didn't get as frustrated. If I had played like that last week I would have been not so happy but I understand it's a work in progress and hopefully it will come together soon."

Press Association

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