Rory McIlroy superbly regrouped in fighting back from struggling at three-over par through 12 holes to then birdie four of his closing five in a round of a one-under par 69 on the opening day of the inaugural WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis.
“I hit a really good tee shot into 14 and I think that turned things around for me,” said McIlroy.
“I sort of lost my swing a little bit in the middle of the round. I started missing some left, club started laid on too much in the downswing, getting underneath the plane. That’s sort of I think from playing in the wind the last couple weeks, it just sort of happens.
“But I made a good swing on 14 and then went from there and made some good swings coming home and it was nice to finish the way I did.
“The good thing is there is a lot of par 4s out there that are 470, 480, 490, so if you can drive it well and get it up there and give yourself wedges or short irons into greens so there’s chances for birdies.”
McIlroy’s effort sees him trailing seven strokes behind powerhouse Spaniard Jon Rahm who snatched eight birdies in a very impressive eight-under par 62 on the TPC Southwind course.
Rahm capped his round with a hat-trick of birdies from his 15th to lead the elite 63-player field by three shots, showing no hangover from his difficult Sunday showing at Royal Portrush.
I didn’t do anything Monday or Tuesday, I just rested and stretched at the hotel, in the room,” Rahm said.
“And then yesterday I came with the plan of playing 18 holes. I putted and warmed up, and after four holes… I was dead. I couldn’t swing properly. I was really tired, so I just decided to just finish the round of nine holes, eat and just putt a little bit and go.
“I tried to put a little emphasis on being rested and it paid off today. Obviously I have three more days to go and hopefully the battery lasts, but that was the main deal for me.”
Five players – Double Masters winning Bubba Watson, Aussie Cameron Smith, American Patrick Cantlay and the Japanese duo of Hideki Matsuyama and Shugo Imahira – share second place on five-under.
McIlroy, competing on the suburban Memphis course for a second time in his career, picked-up a first birdie at the par-4 sixth hole but came unstuck at the par-4 ninth when he found the water guarding the green with his second shot before eventually walking off with a double-bogey ‘6’.
He then bogeyed the 10th and 12th holes, both par-4s, before finally giving the Memphis fans something to cheer about in holing a 12-footer for birdie at the par-3 15th hole and then soon after sending a 16-foot birdie putt to the bottom of the cup at the par-4, 15th.
McIlroy then found a greenside bunker short and right of the green with his approach at the par-5 16th but managed to get up-and-down for a birdie ‘4’ to get back to level par.
And at the last, the par-4 18th, he smashed his drive 330-yards to the corner of the dog-left, and with 118-yards to the pin, McIlroy put his second shot to 17-feet and clearly delighted fans in holing the birdie putt and keeping hsi tournament hopes alive.
Full Scoring HERE
Meanwhile at the Barracuda Championship in Nevada, Seamus Power is in outright sixth place after he fired a four-under par 68 on day one before play was suspended due to lightning.
Power is seven points behind runaway leader, David Lingmerth in the PGA Tour’s only stableford event at Montreaux Golf and Country Club under a format that awards eight points for albatross, five for eagle, two for birdie and zero for par, and subtracts a point for bogey and three for double bogey or worse.
Full Scoring HERE
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