McIlroy headed straight for the range after testing East Lake opener

Bernie McGuire
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McIlroy headed straight for the range after testing East Lake opener

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy was heading straight for the range after this patience was tested with three bogeys in four holes near the end of his round of 68 on the opening day of the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.

McIlroy, under the unique scoring procedure in place at East Lake, began the round at two-under par but eight shots behind American Patrick Cantlay, who headed the 30-player field by two shots at 10-under par. And after McIlroy’s two-under opening round, he advances to four-under par, now nine back of Cantlay who carded a 67 to move to minus-13.

“It could have been really good as I was 4-under through 10, missed a good opportunity on 12 to get to 5, and then from there I just sort of went on a little bit of a bogey run, bogeyed three of the next four, and it was nice to birdie the last,” he said.

“I’m going to go to the range here to work at it. I didn’t drive the ball particularly well and when you do that, I actually got quite lucky a couple of spots that I hit it off line, I was able to make birdies from a couple of those, so I just need to try to put it in play a little more tomorrow.”

As McIlroy mentioned, his opening round was a real chalk and cheese two nines being out in 32 thanks to birdies at the second, fourth and eighth holes.  He then sandwiched bogeys at 13, 15 and 16 in between birdies at 10 and 18.

If there was a standout birdie of McIlroy’s round it was at the par-4 fourth hole where he was well into the tree line with his ball coming to rest on a dirt area leaving McIlroy staring at a small ‘window’ below the line of the branches. He brilliantly picked the gap, clearing the trees and crouched down eagerly, eyeing his ball that cleared a greenside bunker and remarkably came to rest just 10-inches from the hole.

Finishing in the group behind McIlroy was his Ryder Cup teammate, Viktor Hovland, who capped his round of a four-under par 66 by holing his second shot for an eagle ‘2’ at the par-4 fifth hole.

The young Norwegian was then in the clubhouse leading on seven-under par having started the event at three-under – he now sits in a tie for fifth six shots off the pace – and McIlroy asked his opinion of Hovland’s game heading into the Ryder Cup, now just three weeks away.

“Viktor’s a wonderful player and I think there’s a few guys lining up to have the chance to play with him in the Ryder Cup team formats the first couple of days,” said McIlroy.

“So, he’ll probably have his pick of who he wants to play with. But, yeah, he’s a great kid, great player, obviously, and he’s going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of fun to the team.”

Another European Ryder Cup star, Jon Rahm was Cantlay’s nearest challenger after an opening 65 left the Spaniard just two shots behind the American at 11-under par.

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