Rory McIlroy three over par after nightmare start to FedEx Cup play-offs

World number one was at one stage propping up The Barclays leaderboard in New Jersey

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to his third shot on the 13th hole during the first round of The Barclays at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. Photograph: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to his third shot on the 13th hole during the first round of The Barclays at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. Photograph: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 18:52

Rory McIlroy endured a nightmare start to his bid to make it four wins in a row as he reached the turn in a four-over 40 before picking up a shot on the way back in the first round at The Barclays.

The world number one came into the first leg of the four-tournament FedEx Cup play-offs as a hot favourite following victories at the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship.

But his form deserted him during the early stages at Ridgewood Country Club as he registered a double-bogey on the 12th, his third hole, and followed that with bogeys on the 13th and 18th to leave him last of all players on the course at the time.

All of that came after he was inches away from a birdie on the par-three 10th, his first hole of the day.

He pulled a shot back on the par-four fifth but gave it back on the eighth, missing a four-foot putt to bogey. He recovered to birdie the ninth, his final hole of the day, finishing with a three-over round of 74 his first over-par round in competition since the final round of the US Open back in June.

That meant the Northern Irishman was eight shots adrift of the early lead of five under held by Cameron Tringale, Hunter Mahan, Charles Howell III, Brendon de Jonge, Ben Martin and Brendon Todd.

McIlroy, who appeared on late-night US television with Tiger Woods earlier this week, days after parading his Claret Jug at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground last weekend, said he needed to regain his focus to get back into contention.

“I’m not quite on my game, I’ve not quite put in the time over the last few days for obvious reasons,” he said.

“I came here Monday morning, hit some balls, practiced pretty well. But I guess taking a week off and sort of getting back into it this week, I probably just needed to give myself a little bit more time,” added McIlroy. “But I wasn’t going to do that. I was enjoying myself.” The range “I’m going to go and have some lunch and then work on the range, work on a few things, and try to catch up on some practice I’ve missed out on over the last week and try to be ready for tomorrow.”

Looking forward to the FedEx Cup, he added: “For me, not being here for the weekend isn’t an option. I’ve got to work hard today on the range and get out there and get off to a fast start tomorrow, and get myself back into this tournament.” Well placed Graeme McDowell opened his challenge at Ridgewood Country Club with a one under par 70 while Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Scotsman Russell Knox were both a stroke behind the early leaders after carding 67s.

The top 125 players in the standings have qualified for The Barclays, with the field being trimmed to 100 for the Deutsche Bank, 70 for the BMW and then 30 for the Tour Championship with the man finishing top of the standings claiming a $10 million bonus.

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