Rory McIlroy was clearly dialled-in bringing his ‘Middle East Swing’ form to the PGA Tour’s ‘West Coast Swing’ in posting a round of 68 on day one of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
McIlroy teed-up in the $ 7.4m event for a first occasion having averaged 67 for each of his eight rounds on the European Tour’s ‘Middle East Swing’.
And had it not been for a 16th hole bogey, McIlroy would have kept his average at 67 on the Pacific Ocean lined Spyglass Hill course
McIlroy started fast holing an eight-foot gem at the par-5 opening hole.
The current World No. 8 who was playing alongside Phil Mickelson dropped a shot at six but picked off birdies at seven and eight along with three inward birdies on the par-5 11th and 14th holes before a birdie at the last for his four-under total.
“I was happy with my round and anytime you can get it around Spyglass with a decent score you have to feel good as it is the tougher of the three courses,” he said.
“I recovered well from a couple of messy holes coming in and, in the end, I made a great bogey on 16, a great par on 17 and then it was nice to finish with a birdie.
“I’m scrambling well when I need to. I feel like I’ve made good strides with my putting over the off season. Driving the ball good. Everything — from when I spoke to you guys last until now, everything, I feel, has gotten better, which is a good thing.
“So, no, I feel really comfortable with it all.”
And after a third place in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the disappointment of runner-up last fortnight in Dubai, McIlroy is in a best position both golf-wise and health-wise since capturing his last career title – 2016 Tour Championship.
“Yeah, I feel good. A couple of really good weeks in the Middle East. But, yeah, like I’m healthy and I’m able to practice, I’m able to do everything I want to do, so I feel good,” he said.
“I’m in a really good frame of mind and that helps too.”
And after first contesting a first Alfred Dunhill Links in 2007 and being familiar with the pro and amateur partner format, McIlroy’s made a conscious decision in his maiden AT&T Pro-Am showing not to focus as much on the team format.
“I mean I’ve had this format so many times at the Dunhill where it feels a bit different,” said McIlroy.
“Sometimes I get too much carried away with the team aspect and not actually, this is a golf tournament and there’s a lot of World Ranking points at stake here and whatever.
“So, I sort of made a conscious effort this week to treat it as that and not warm up right next to him, not — actually get my, I don’t know, my game head on and just sort of try and go through the things that I need to do to play well.
“It worked today, I guess, so.”
Phil Mickelson, who played alongside McIlroy, signed for a round of 69 and was asked his thoughts of playing alongside his likely 2018 Ryder Cup rival
“Rory played good, solid golf. He shot a nice opening round and he’s fun to be around,” said Mickelson.
“I really enjoy Rory and his dad and we had a good time.”
Of the strong five-man Irish contingent, Shane Lowry ended day one with the same four under-par score as McIlroy, rebounding from last week’s poor Phoenix Open result to sign for a 67 at Monterrey Peninsula.
Graeme McDowell returning the venue of his 2010 U.S. Open triumph clearly warmed to the surrounds to be bogey-free and lying at three-under par playing the downhill par-3 17th hole.
However, ‘G Mac’ sent his tee shot into a back bunker and then failed to get onto the green with his second.
McDowell then agonised in bending over and leaning on his putter when he missed a 10-footer for bogey in taking a double bogey ‘5’.
He then produced a 266-yard drive down the last and then found the long fairway bunker short of the green and failed to get up[ and down for a birdie as he carded a round of 71.
“ I took the gloss from what looked to be a pretty decent start with the double on 17 and not getting a birdie up the last.”
Seamus Power was at the Monterey Peninsula course posting two birdies but also three bogeys in a one-over par 72 at Monterey Peninsula.
Padraig Harrington had slumped to last place in being seven-over par after just as many holes including posting an ‘8’ at the par-4 eighth hole.
But to his credit, Harrington regrouped over his inward half with four birdies and just one other bogey in an otherwise disappointing 75 and also at Monterey Peninsula.
And Paul Dunne joined McIlroy at Spyglass Hill but it was a roller-coaster, outward nine of three birdies and just as many bogeys.
To his credit, the Greystones golfer then birdied two of his closing five holes in a one-under par 71.
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