Disappointing day for Rory McIlroy in Memphis

Caldwell ends a run of four straight missed cuts to find his form in the Hero Open

Rory McIlroy hitting his tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the World Golf Championship FedEx-St. Jude Invitational golf tournament in Memphis, Tennessee. Photograph: EPA/Tannen Maury

Rory McIlroy bookended his round with a birdie start and a birdie finish. Unfortunately, it was what happened in between – including bunker issues and a cold putter – that had a look of disconsolation on his face after he opened his bid for the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis with a disappointing two-over-par 72.

With others joining in a birdie fest on the course in the tournament with a €8.85 million prize fund and no cut for the limited 66-man field, McIlroy’s woes were in stark contrast to the exploits of others: Harris English went out in 28 strokes and, although the hot streak cooled on the homeward journey, he ultimately posted an eight-under-par 62 to take the lead.

Ian Poulteralso got hot. The Englishman chipped in for birdie on the eighth, his 17th hole, en route to a 64, where he joined Matt Wolff, Jim Herman and Carlos Ortiz on that mark as players took advantage of no wind and receptive greens.

McIlroy’s round started with a birdie from 12 feet on the 10th, his opening hole, but there followed a frustrating round encapsulated by his play of the par-4 sixth hole where his tee shot found a horribly lie in a fairway bunker. Ambitious with his recovery effort, his feet slipped on his downswing and he left the ball in the trap as he ran up a double-bogey six and then bogeyed the par-3 eighth before finally getting his second birdie of the round on the ninth, his finishing hole.


Shane Lowry, who also made the onward trip from the Olympics in Tokyo to Memphis, signed for a two under par round of 68 after he finished with a flourish, making birdies on the 16th and 18th holes.

Missed cuts

On the European Tour, Jonathan Caldwell ended a run of four straight missed cuts to find his form in the Hero Open at Fairmont in St Andrew’s, where he opened with a stunning eight-under-par 64 – an eagle, seven birdies and one bogey – to trail first-round leader Calum Hill by one stroke.

Caldwell, winner of the Scandinavian Mixed earlier in the season, made the most of the morning benign conditions to play aggressive golf and get straight into the mix.

“I’m delighted, especially with my recent form, it hasn’t been so good. I’m delighted that a bit of work I’ve done over the last week or so with my coach (Paddy Small) at home is paying off. Hopefully I can keep going forward.”

After his win in Sweden, Caldwell followed up with missed cuts at the BMW International Open, the DDF Irish Open, the Scottish Open and last week’s ISPS Handa World Invitational but bounced back in spectacular style.

“It’s like a pendulum, you go one way with something and you’ve got to get back to where you were. Slowly getting back to where I was from Sweden form.... [having won] takes a bit of pressure off after missing four cuts in a row that I don’t have to put pressure on myself to have good weeks to get the money up.

“Having those exemptions, knowing I’m in the big events with the big prize funds and the bigger points, it does take a bit of pressure off. But I still pressure myself to play well, make cuts and play well at the weekend.”

Meanwhile, Richard Kilpatrick, attached to Banbridge Golf Club, opened with a bogey-free six-under-par 66 opening round to take control of the 111th Irish PGA Championship at Carne Golf Links to take a two stroke lead over Mark Staunton, with defending champion Simon Thornton a shot further back in third.

Collated first round scores in the World Golf Championships — FedEx St Jude Invitational, TPC Southwind (USA unless stated, Par 70):

62 Harris English
64 Jim Herman, Carlos Ortiz (Mex), Ian Poulter (Eng), Matthew Wolff
65 Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman (Aus), Scottie Scheffler
66 Daniel Berger, Sam Burns, Max Homa, Will Zalatoris
67 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Corey Conners (Can), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Brad Kennedy (Aus), Kevin Kisner, Jason Kokrak, Min-Woo Lee (Aus), Collin Morikawa, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Cameron Smith (Aus), Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood (Eng)
68 Paul Casey (Eng), Stewart Cink, Cameron Davis (Aus), Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Billy Horschel, Martin Laird (Sco), Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor), Shane Lowry (Irl), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Patrick Reed
69 Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Lucas Herbert (Aus), Dustin Johnson, Matt Jones (Aus), Robert MacIntyre (Sco), Phil Mickelson, Wade Ormsby (Aus), Justin Rose (Eng), Xander Schauffele
70 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Sergio Garcia (Spa), Brian Harman, Sung Jae Im (Kor), Si Woo Kim (Kor), Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Ryan Palmer, Aaron Rai (Eng)
71 Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Lucas Glover, Victor Perez (Fra), Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Robert Streb
72 Rory McIlroy (NIrl)
73 Viktor Hovland (Nor)
74 Ryosuke Kinoshita (Jpn), Adam Scott (Aus)
76 Wilco Nienaber (Rsa)

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times