McIlroy flying high despite knee injury

Ulsterman’s good form continues in Memorial Tournament in Ohio

Rory McIlroy, shrugged off a painful knee to soar three shots clear with a spectacular nine-under-par 63 in the opening round of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. VIDEO: Reuters

 

The confident strut is well and truly back in Rory McIlroy’s step, even if – for a time during the opening round of the Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village – it appeared that a knee injury suffered by the 25-year-old Northern Irishman in a gym workout prior to teeing-off could potentially cause more problems than conquering the course that Jack Nicklaus built.

As it transpired, McIlroy not only shrugged off the discomfort of a tweaked left knee but shot a first round of nine-under-par 63 to lead overnight by three as the world number six – a matter of days after swashbuckling his way to victory in the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA – again moved to the top of the leaderboard.

  In continuing the momentum of his Wentworth win across the Atlantic, McIlroy – in his final warm-up event before the US Open at Pinehurst in a fortnight’s time – played through the pain barrier on the front nine and, then, seemed far more at ease on a homeward run that included two eagles.

With world number one Adam Scott in the same group but confined at times to the role of watching McIlroy’s glorious play, the Ulsterman picked up birdies on the second (where he hit a wedge to 10 feet), fourth (from nine feet), seventh (pitching from greenside rough to six feet) and ninth (where he sank a 15-footer).

  McIlroy moved to five-under when hitting an approach from light rough on the 10th to five feet as he sought to win in back-to-back weeks for the second time in his career: he won the BMW Championship and Deutsche Bank championship as part of the FedEx Cup series in successive weeks in 2012.

  On the Par 5 11th, McIlroy hit a four-iron approach to 25 feet and rolled in the eagle putt and moved to eight-under for his round when he sank an 18-footer for birdie on the 13th.

His only blip came on the short Par 4 14th where he put his wedge approach into a greenside bunker and left the recovery in the trap in running up a double bogey.

  But McIlroy again showed his bounce back ability when he then hit a drive of over 300 yards on the Par 5 15th and then hit a five-iron to 15 feet for another eagle.

He followed by rolling in a 15-footer on the 16th to move to nine-under, three clear of his nearest pursuers. He found a greenside bunker with his approach to the 18th but showed his resilience and touch with a sand save.

  US Masters champion Bubba Watson, reigning Irish Open champion Paul Casey and American Chris Kirk had claimed the early clubhouse lead with rounds of six-under-par 66s and were in a three-way tie for second overnight three shots adrift.

Former US PGA champion Keegan Bradley ditched his belly-putter for the more conventional short putter to shoot his lowest ever round – a 67 – at the Memorial. Bradley made the switch on the advice of his mother and after a week practicing at home with Michael Jordan.

  Bradley was the first player to use a belly putter to win a Major in the 2011 US PGA but has vowed to move to a conventional shorter-shafted putter in time for the implementation of the anchoring ban comes into force in 2016.

  Phil Mickelson – who has struggled for much of the season – had moved to five-under with three holes to play but finished bogey-double bogey-double bogey to drop five shots in his closing three holes.

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