It started akin to a trip down Lonely Street to the Heartbreak Hotel but for Rory McIlroy, back-to-back closing round birdies on day one of the FedEx St. Jude Championship were enough not to leave him broken-hearted.
McIlroy ended the opening day of the first of the three Play-Off Series posting a level-par 70 on the host TPC Southwind course in Memphis, Tennessee.
Korean Si Woo Kim pulled off the shot of the day in holing his 168-yard second shot for an eagle ‘2’ at the last to be tied at the top after eight-under 62s with American JJ Spaun, with the pair leading by a shot in the $15m event.
Of note, was the effort by Rickie Fowler who arrived in Memphis having missed the cut a week earlier in Greensboro but with thanks, in part, to the removal of a number of LIV Golf players, he ended the ‘regular’ 2021/22 season at 125th on the money list and the last place to retain your card.
Fowler, with a new caddy on the bag, eagled the 16th on route to a five-under 65.
“I mean, I knew there was an outside shot and there was — obviously at that point there was nothing I could do,” said Fowler in speaking in holding onto his card.
“We went home, got some practice in over the weekend, stuff I wanted to continue to work on, but not knowing if it was going to be for this week or just some time at home and continue to grind. Fortunate to be here and off to a good start and see if we can take advantage of having a tee time here.”
And when asked if he watched the final round of the Wyndham, Fowler remarked: “As far as TV coverage, zero. I looked up like numbers here or there, but I was out playing. Like I said, there was nothing I could do, so I was out playing golf.”
Shane Lowry leads the Irish charge superbly, capping his round in holing a 10-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th hole on the ‘card he was playing as his seventh.
It moved Lowry to four-under but sticking out like the proverbial dog’s hind leg, and also robbing him of a hopeful day one top-20 was doubling the par-4 16th that he was playing as his 15th on route to an eventual round of a two-under 68.
McIlroy is top and/or near the top in all PGA Tour statistics except for one category and that is ‘Driving Accuracy’ – lying 117th on the 2021/22 stats and it was that aspect of his game again letting him down in the bigger Memphis picture
McIlroy hit just five of 14 fairways, one outward fairway and four over the inward half for a lowly 35.71% mark.
He was two-over after six holes before a first birdie at the seventh but then taking a third bogey at the 11th. A birdie at 13 brought him back to one-over before arriving at the par-4 15th and probably the signature hole at TPC Southwind that provides just a small corridor to find the fairway off the tee but what did McIlroy do? Drove it 291-yards and straight into the water!
The fourth bogey of his round dropped back to two-over before nearly driving OOB left at 16 but then, as we should always expect from McIlroy, he went so close to posting an eagle for a tap-in birdie ‘4’ to get back to one-over.
A laser-like 305-yard drive at 17 following a second shot to just four-feet handed McIlroy a fourth birdie and ending his round sharing 78th place and projected to drop three places to sixth on the FedEx Cup standings
Seamus Power will start the second round a shot behind McIlroy in signing for a one-over 71 after a round that included two birdies and three bogeys.
Looking at the overall FedEx Play-Off make-up for the top-70 heading to next week’s BMW Championship in Delaware there are a number of players already making a big jump in the goal to tee-up in Wilmington.
- Rickie Fowler (Score of 65) – Projected to move from 125th to 76th
- Ryan Palmer (65) – 110th to 68th
- Michael Thompson (65) – 103rd to 64th
- Jason Day (65) – 1113th to 69th
On on the flipside of the Play-Offs coine we have:
- Aniban Lahiri (Score of 71) – Projected to from 63rd to 73rd
- Alex Smalley (71) – 61st to 71st
- John Huh (73) – 67th to 75th
Full scoring HERE