Rory McIlroy’s putting woes left him with an awful case of golf’s ‘Delta Blues’ on the opening day of the WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis.
McIlroy simply could not ‘buy’ a putt and had to wait all of 16 holes before a first birdie of the day. He managed to pick up another shot at the last but signed for a relative horror three-over 73 to be sharing 68th place in the elite 77-player and ‘no cut’ $10.5m event.
There were no such fears for Ireland’s other competitors with both Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell posting encouraging two-under par rounds of 68 to share 15th.
McIlroy however is already a massive 11 shots behind defending champion Brooks Koepka who finally emerged from a long competitive hiatus to post an eight-under par 62 in a ‘preferred lie’ rule on the host TPC Southwind course.
Koepka, now ranked No. 4 in the world, capped his round with four opening birdies and ended the day two shots clear of the duo of Rickie Fowler and Brendan Todd.
“I played good and drove it well, putted well, chipped it well,” reflected Koepka who clearly reaped the benefits of working with Phil Kenyon and Pete Cohen.
“Did everything very solid. Missed it in the correct spots and never really felt like I was having to work too hard out there,
“I do feel comfortable in this place, I like it, but at the same time it’s the first time I feel like I know where my misses are, I know when the club’s in the correct spot, I know when the putting stroke’s nice. It’s all just the work we’ve put in over the last three weeks of countless hours of beating balls and on the putting green.”
McIlroy was again out in one of the many ‘featured’ groups but still unable to find all forward gears since the June 11th return to competition with a best result in four events being a T11th at the Travelers.
He struggled from the outset in Memphis in finding water guarding the green in taking a first bogey at the par-3 11th hole, the second hole of his round.
McIlroy then bogeyed his fifth and then for the next seven holes showed his frustration in ‘burning’ the hole with seven pars.
It then turned horribly pear-shaped in dropping three shots over three holes, from his 13th to 15th to plunge to then last at an embarrassing five-over.
Finally, at his 16th, McIlroy found the bottom of the cup in holing a 12-footer for a first birdie ahead of a par on his 17th and then to even his surprise, McIlroy saw his 21-footer at the last find the cup for only a second birdie of another frustrating day where he needed 35 putts.
Open Champion Lowry had moved to two-under par with a third birdie of his round at the ninth but like McIlroy, the Clara star also found the water in front of the green at the 12th hole before taking a double-bogey ‘5’.
However, Lowry ended on a positive note in holing birdie putts of six-feet at the 15th before a two-putt birdie at the par-5 next before parring the last and posting a rock-solid 68.
And McDowell, who like McIlroy was off the 10th, also found the course tough but much like both McIlroy and Lowry, the former U.S. Open champ also picked-up closing birdies.
McDowell was one-over par with four play and turned his day around with birdies at his 15th, 16th and with the best being at his 17th or the par- 3 eighth hole where ‘G Mac’ brilliantly chipped-in from all of 35-feet to match Lowry’s score of 68.
Full scoring HERE