McIlroy recovers from nightmare start to post 70 in Phoenix

Bernie McGuire
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy rebounded superbly from a horror start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he was three-over after just two holes before eventually signing for a one-under par 70 on the TPC Scottsdale course.  The World No. 6 started double-bogey, bogey to slump to three-over after just two holes before getting himself back into the red with five birdies on day one of the €6.1m event.

“I feel okay and it was a good battle back from being three-over through two which isn’t ideal, especially on this golf course where you sort of need to make birdies,” said McIlroy who sits in a tie for 50th at one-under. “I fought back well. I wish I didn’t drop that shot coming in on the 8th hole, but shooting under par after the start wasn’t too bad.”

It was a day of low-scoring in Phoenix with McIlroy trailing Matthew NeSmith and Mark Hubbard by seven strokes after the American pair opened with eight-under 63s. Nate Lashley and Sam Burns were at minus-seven while U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, Steve Stricker outscored his European counterpart Padraig Harrington by six strokes – Stricker had seven birdies in a 65 while Harrington had three but finished bogey, double bogey in an even par round of 71 to be sharing 70th.

McIlroy meanwhile found a front greenside bunker with his second shot at the par-4 10th hole, the first of his round, and then put his third in a back sand trap before taking another three shots in a double-bogey ‘6’.

He had to then dig his way out of deep rough at the next in taking a ‘5’ before finding forward gears with three birdies in four holes from his fourth to seventh holes; the best of the trio being a 32-foot chip-in for birdie at the par-3 16th or the seventh hole of his round. McIlroy then jumped to two-under with birdies at his 11th and 12th holes.

He sought the advice of a referee at the par-3 seventh or his 15th hole when his stance was affected by not one but three sprinkler heads. The rule allows a player to take a ‘free’ drop and that was the advice McIlroy was given. Last week, McIlroy found himself drawn into the Patrick Reed rules controversy over a Reed embedded ball with the American bringing McIlroy into his defence when McIlroy gave himself relief from his own embedded ball at the 18th hole before a spectator later advised the Tour they had accidentally stepped on McIlroy’s ball. Mystery solved… nothing to see here.

The 31-year old did bogey his penultimate hole to end his round as the afternoon half of the draw was taking to the course, including Harrington, but after recovering from such a poor start on Thursday, McIlroy will hope to play his way back into the mix on Friday by limiting the mistakes of his opening effort.

“It was not the ideal start finding the desert at the first but I knew on the back nine at least I had some par-5s coming up and a few good chances,” said McIlroy. “So, very thankfully I was able to take advantage of some of them.”

And even with 5,000 ‘masked’ spectators allowed in each day, when the average per day the past few years has been around 175,000 per day, McIlroy and his colleagues were glad to get vocal support.

“It was nice to play in front of people today,” he said. “Yeah, just to get clapped for some good shots and good putts and get encouragement from some greens to tees, it was really nice to see people out here.”

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