Rory McIlroy returned a rollercoaster three-under par round of 67 that leaves him four shots back of overnight leader Jason Day after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Maryland.
Going in search of a fourth win at the event that this year visits a new venue in TPC Potomac, McIlroy, who started from the 10th tee, holed a 20-footer for birdie to get his round up and running at his first before immediately giving the shot back at the next.
From the 12th, his third, McIlroy reeled off four birdies on the spin, a 24-footer the longest of the quartet that included some terrific approaches to inside 5 feet.
He would three-putt the par-3 17th for bogey out of nowhere before four straight pars led to his first real momentum killer on his unlucky 13th – the fourth. McIlroy yanked his tee-shot into the water left from the tee and after missing the green with his third, then failed to get up and down before carding a double-bogey ‘6’.
Making his first appearance since a runner-up finish at the Masters, McIlroy was understandably rusty, but he managed to recover to keep the positives vibes afloat, with two straight birdies at his next two holes wiping the double bogey clean before parring home to sign for 67; his three-under tally sitting pretty in a tie for 17th after day one.
“I think first week back after three weeks off, there’s maybe going to be a couple of mistakes in there,” said McIlroy post-round.
“The three-putt on 17 was an unforced error. I mean, 11’s a tough hole, I got a bit of a flyer from the semi rough and made bogey, but you sort of accept that and deal with that.
“Then I should have made 5 on No. 6. I hit it in the water, but got a drop up there and so I probably left a couple out there. I’m still pretty happy with 67. It could have been a 65 or a 64, but it’s still a good start.”
Crucial in keeping momentum up was McIlroy’s two-birdie bounce back after making double on his 13th.
“Yeah, that was a nice bounce back to birdie both of those holes coming back,” he agreed.
“I said to myself walking off the green, if I could just get back to 3 under for the day by the end of the day after that, I would be pretty happy, and obviously I did that within the next two holes.
“I had some chances coming in, but yeah, happy with the day. And over the course of a tournament, you’re going to think about shots that you could have held onto, but I think at the end of the week it all sort of evens out. I can’t be too disappointed.”
Compared to McIlroy, Seamus Power produced a rather dull even par round of 70 that included just one bogey and one birdie that leaves him in a tie for 80th and where he started at level.
Former world number one Jason Day delivered a first-round leading effort with eight birdies and just a single dropped shot in his seven-under par 63. That’s one shot better off than Joel Dahmen in second, and two clear of a five-way tie for third that includes a rejuvenated looking Matthew Wolff.
“I mean, it’s close,” said Day who beamed with encouragement as the work he’s been doing with swing coach Chris Como began to bear fruit.
“I mean, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff; I think about the golf swing in the morning, I think about the golf swing during the day and I think about the golf swing at night. There’s been conversations at 12:00 at night with Chris just because I have an idea in my head and a certain sensation and a feel.
“If you’ve been around me at that time, it’s interesting. I’m obsessed with it. And once again, I’m to a point where the swing is really nice with the iron, I feel like, and even to a certain point in the fairway woods, but the driver, I really need to really focus on that to make sure that I’m doing the correct movement because it can potentially hurt.
“Overall, it’s moving in the right direction.”
- Full scoring HERE