McIlroy proud of fightback after horror start but falls eight adrift of rampant Scheffler

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the 14th green during the first round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy is an enigma causing golf fans to gaze adoringly at him and curse his luck at the same time. 

In one of the most bizarre rounds of golf by his standards, McIlroy carded just four pars and after counting up the scores on the card his opening round added up to a three-under 67 and a seven-under aggregate score. 

Teeing off six shots behind FedEx Cup leader Scottie Scheffler, the four-time major winner got off to the worst possible start, pulling his opening tee shot left in the spilling rain out of bounds leading to a triple bogey seven. 


He compounded that damage with a bogey on the second to fall four-over through two holes and one-over for the Tour Championship at East Lake. 

“Yeah, I got off to the worst start possible. We got a little unfortunate that we teed off in that big downpour earlier in the day. I tried to guide sort of this little peeler into the fairway at the 1st and completely double-crossed, body stopped,” explained McIlroy who was proud of his fightback. 

“It was obviously the weather. I tried to hit this little guidey cut into the fairway, body stopped, double-crossed it, ball went left and OB. It was sort of, there’s a lesson in there somewhere, but even when you’re not sure about what you’re trying to do, sort of going full send for me is the best way forward. 

“I won the Deutsche Bank a few years ago. I was 4-over through three in Boston and ended up winning that tournament. It’s not like I haven’t done it before. But as you said, it’s different when you are giving strokes back. 

“I sort of thought of Tom Kim a few weeks ago in Greensboro. He started with a quad and ended up going on to win the golf tournament. 

“You know, and it is possible. Anything can be done. I’m just really proud of how I fought back today.” 

The 33-year-old battled back well with birdies at the third and fifth either side of a dropped shot. A chip in eagle on the par-5 6th was a mere drop in the ocean compared to what had been going on in his round and his only par of the front nine was followed by a birdie, bogey finish before the turn. 

After steadying the ship with a pair of pars, the two-time FedEx Cup champion birdied five of his final seven holes to come home in 31 and end a thrilling opening round. 

“So, yeah, not the best way to start, but battled back well. The golf course is really soft and really gettable, so I knew there was a lot of holes out there that you could birdie. 

“I knew my game was good, it was just one of those things. I would have been happy just to get back to even par after the first few holes, but to shoot 3-under was great.” 

Still, despite his heroics, McIlroy has fallen eight shots behind Scheffler after the world number one birdied his last three holes to shoot an opening 65 and move five clear of Xander Schauffele on fifteen-under. 

The Holywood native is bidding to become the first player to win three FedEX Cup titles but he knows he is behind the eight ball and will need some things to go his way if he is to hunt down Scheffler over the next 54 holes. 

Without aggregate scoring, McIlroy would be only two shots behind but the aggregate scoring hasn’t helped him. 

“I can go out and shoot a really good score tomorrow, but if Scottie is seven or eight or whatever he is ahead of me, then it makes things really difficult. But if I go out and shoot a good score tomorrow and Scottie has a lackluster day, then he brings a lot of guys in it, and over 36 holes anything can happen. 

“I think tomorrow is a pretty pivotal day for the rest of the field just to try to get a little closer to where Scottie is.” 

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