Rory McIlroy continued his impressive early season form with a four-under par 68 on the much tougher Torrey Pines South Course on day one of the Farmers Insurance Open.
With two courses in operation this week in California, as well as placing due to wet weather over the first couple of days, the world number seven found himself on the stiffer test in round one but rose to the challenge with just two players managing better than McIlroy’s 68 on a South Course that played almost four strokes tougher than the North.
It was a performance founded on an impressive display of driving with McIlroy reaching the turn with four birdies after taking advantage of the two-par-5s on the front before coming home in even par after failing to convert birdies on the two-par-5s on the back. All-in all, the score leaves McIlroy just outside the top-20 at four-under par, four back of co-leaders Alex Noren and Patrick Reed but with the advantage of getting the hard one out of the way first on Torrey South.
“Yeah, I did well, I got off to a great start, 4 under through nine,” McIlroy reflected. “A little disappointed I didn’t pick up a couple more on the way in, especially with the two par 5s, not picking up any shots there. But I think anytime you shoot 68 on the South Course here you’ve got to be pretty happy. It’s a good start. We don’t know what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow [Friday], so it was nice to get a good one in and play on the slightly easier golf course in the worse conditions tomorrow. I’m pretty happy with the start.”
Arriving to the U.S. off the back of a third place finish on his seasonal reappearance in Abu Dhabi last week, McIlroy will play six of the next seven events and will hope his improved driving is a sign of things to come after a wonderful display on Thursday. According to American Stats expert, Justin Ray, McIlroy gained three strokes off the tee in round one. No other player on the South Course gained more than 1.9.
“It gives me a lot of confidence,” McIlroy admitted. “You know, especially with how I drove it parts of last week, it wasn’t very good, it was a little ‘guidey’ at times. First tournament back out, maybe a little unsure of what I’m doing. I made a decision today that I’m just going to fully commit to every swing I make off the tee, and it worked, I hit some great tee shots, took advantage of some of them. Didn’t take advantage of some others on the back nine, but I was happy with how I hit it out there.”
Another key statistic that illustrated McIlroy’s class on day one was the fact he hit 17 greens in regulation – he’s never hit all 18 in his PGA Tour career. That last bit is no surprise given McIlroy is often the aggressor, challenging pins that others dare not seek but it’s a reflection of the narrow targets at Torrey, coupled with McIlroy’s respect for the smaller greens that made his all-round approach a mature one on day one, perhaps an approach that may serve him well at other venues too?
“I think sometimes, it’s sort of weird to say, but I almost have better performances with green in reg when they’re smaller greens because you can just be very comfortable hitting to the middle of greens all the time and not feeling like you’re having to take on pins,” McIlroy explained.
“Like 16 today, the par 3’s a prime example. The pin’s tucked way over on the left side, it’s a 4‑iron from 230, just very comfortable hitting it at the two TV towers at the back right centre of the green and taking your 30‑footer. I think sometimes having smaller greens it can make it easier to hit more greens, if that makes sense, just because you don’t feel you have to chase pins as much.”
Seamus Power won’t have the luxury of playing for the middle of the green after going ten shots worse than McIlroy on the South on Thursday. A late addition to the field as a reserve, Power was thrown in at the deep end with two doubles and three bogeys dotted on his six-over score of 78.
- Full scoring HERE