McIlroy slumps to disappointing 73 as rampant Rahm roars two clear

Ronan MacNamara

Jon Rahm at the Genesis Invitational (Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

It was a tough day fro the Irish at Bay Hill with none shooting under par on day one of the Arnold Palmer Invitational while Jon Rahm looked imperious on his way to a blistering 65 to lead by two.

Shane Lowry and Seamus Power returned level-par 72s while Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy will be battling to make the cut from one-over-par.

Power led the Irish charge on Thursday morning and looked like he was going to post his first sub par round at Bay Hill in just his second start after birdies on 13 and 16 saw him go from one-over to one-under. Unfortunately he closed with a bogey to drop back into a share of 50th place.


Lowry meanwhile let two shots slip away over his last three holes and it was the same old story for the Clara native who was sloppy on the greens again.

After a front nine of one birdie, one bogey. The Offaly man looked to have clawed his way into contention with birdies on his 12th and 13th holes before some slack putting saw him three-putt his 16th from nowhere before he failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker on the last.

Like Lowry, Harrington also let a shot go on 18 after dragging himself back into the round. The Dubliner opened with a double-bogey on the first but impressively got back to level-par with birdies on 12 and 16 before letting one go on 18.

McIlrory double bogeyed the par-5 6th on his way to a 73.

Looking for his sixth win in ten PGA Tour starts Rahm looks to have laid down another marker before Augusta after an eagle, birdie, birdie run saw him ominously take control of the tournament.

That blistering run came at the end of his round which was bookended by hot stretches. The Spaniard had opened with three successive birdies and despite not firing on all cylinders, he knows a hot putter gives him the capability to go on devastating streaks.

“I think the only difference between some of my rounds last year and this one was just putting. I don’t think in four days I made a single putt out here. And I made my fair share today. I’ve been putting a lot better this year,” said Rahm who is 91st in strokes gained off the tee, first in tee to green thanks to some laser like approach play.

“But from good putting to bad putting is the smallest difference imaginable. Especially on these greens. These greens can get difficult very quick.

“I mean, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if I’m going to be as picky as possible,” Rahm said. “I struck it and hit better quality shots on the first three, but that’s just being nit-picky. I heeled my three-wood on 18. I slightly over faded my five-iron on 16.”

Rahm (-7) leads Honda Classic winner Chris Kirk, Cameron Young and Kurt Kitayama by two while Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are all part of a group on four-under.

Fowler teed it up off the back of three successive top-20 finishes on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2019 and while his game tee to green wasn’t overly impressive, he looked as good as ever on the greens despite a new putting style.

“Yeah, really from in the fall to get some good finishes from Napa to having a chance to win in Japan, that was nice to be able to — I kind of felt like I earned some time off and it was nice to be able to shutdown and then regroup and kind of know, hey, we did this in the fall, then come out fresh and be ready to go for the West Coast Swing and Florida.

“So, yeah, after the previous three years, to be in a position where actually building momentum and confidence. There was like maybe short spurts of that in the past, but now it just seems to kind of a little bit of a snowball affect.

“Made some putts, which was, it’s kind of been nice to have that back, because that was something that also held me back in those years prior. There would be days where I still hit it okay, but I wasn’t putting very well. So if you’re not putting well it doesn’t matter how good or bad you hit it.”

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