Rory McIlroy commenced his New Year in birding three of his closing four holes in an encouraging four-under par 69 on the opening day of the ‘winner’s only’ Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
Rory McIlroy / Image from Getty Images
There was plenty of good in McIlroy’s first round in his first New Year event ever in the States and it left him sharing sixth place and trailing just three shots behind American Kevin Tway who, despite suffering from an ear and sinus infection, heads the reduced 33-player field at seven-under par.
Three players – defending champion Dustin Johnson along with Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland – share second place after six-under par 67s on the par 73 Plantation course.
“It was good as I had lots of chances and I’m pleased to finish the way I did with three birdies of the last four,” McIlroy said.
“I think also given how the winds blows here anything in the 60s is a good start.”
McIlroy has been in Hawaii since December 27th accompanied by his parents along with the parents of his wife, Erica with McIloy’s father enjoying playing social rounds in the company of others and not his four-time Major winning son.
McIlroy’s round was a mix of five birdies and just the one bogey but he kick-started 2019 in hitting a 3-wood off the first tee and then at the second hole snared a first birdie of the new year in holing a 10-footer. He bogeyed the par-3 eighth hole from a greenside bunker and then made the turn at one-under after two-putting the ninth for a birdie ‘4’.
McIlroy, wearing a bizarre-looking red cap, then missed a number of birdie chances in parring the next five holes before finding the front of the green at the par-5 15th and, 16-feet from the flag, from where he two-putted for a birdie ‘4’.
Then at the par-4 16th McIlroy holed a 10-foot birdie from behind the flag before also finding the green at the downhill par-5 18th and two-putting from 71-feet behind the flag for his birdie ‘4’ and the third birdie in four holes.
The strongpoint of McIlroy’s round was finding 17 of 18 Kapalua greens in regulation, though he found himself after the round again having to answer questions on his decision to commence a New Year in the States for a first time in his now 12-year pro career.
“I have done the same thing for 11-years, 11 straight years as I have started in the Middle East and then I have come Stateside, so I just wanted to do something different,” he said.
“A lot of people have told me how beautiful it is here and after winning the Arnold Palmer last year, I punched my ticket to be here in Hawaii, and the first thing I said is that I want to go to Kapalua next year.”
“I’m glad I’m here as not everyone on the PGA Tour gets to come here every year, so I managed to get myself off to a good start and get myself into the tournament.”
“Every new year you start off with a determined focus and you’re trying to make the best not just for the year ahead but in looking at the big picture I am trying to plan the next five, 10 years ahead and what I want in my life and what I want my career to look like up to that point.”
“I’ve had a lot of thinking to do and I’ve come to the realisation that for me to be at my best I need play in the United States, it is going to be the best for me and for my game and for my career, and that’s the decision I’ve made.”
It prompted McIlroy to be asked if winning is all that matters now in his career.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “There is a lot of things I can be proud of off the golf course. There is my career as a golfer and yes, wins and trying to improve and become a better player yes, that is all that matters on the golf course.”
“Off the golf course, there are things that would make me successful and fulfil me as a person, so there is a lot that goes into that but as a golfer, and in my career, and wins are the only things that matter.”
American Patton Kizzire secured the first ‘ace’ of 2019 in holing out at the par-3 eighth hole and it was Kizzire’s first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour but there was not prize for the towering 32-year old Alabama-born golfer.