Rory McIlroy battles his way to level-par 72 as swing troubles return

Northern Ireland golfer will start second round straight away after delay

 Rory McIlroy crosses the bridge on the 14th hole during  the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club  in Dublin, Ohio. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy crosses the bridge on the 14th hole during the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

 

Rory McIlroy continues to operate under the putative maxim, ‘work in progress’ as he tries to bed-in the swing changes he’s been toiling on with Pete Cowen. The primary difficulty is trying to do so while playing tournament golf.

There were moments in his first round at Muirfield Village that bore the hallmark of exquisite quality but also five or six shots that caused considerable angst in scoring terms. The 32-year-old managed two holes before play was suspended on Thursday night due to inclement weather, one over after bogeying the first hole.

On the six previous occasions that he suffered that fate at the Memorial tournament he failed to break 70 but when he resumed on Friday morning – following a fog delay – he immediately set about trying to break that streak. Birdies at the third and the two par-fives, the fifth and seventh, saw him turn in two under.

However, the par-three eighth was arguably a pivotal moment in terms of momentum. He missed from four feet for birdie at a time when his golf was imperious. Almost from nowhere based on his play to that point, he temporarily lost his swing, his tee shot on the 10th going straight right and ending up in a resident’s backyard.

From there he would make double-bogey. His three-wood second shot from the middle of the 11th fairway was almost a carbon copy of his tee shot on 10 but a very fortuitous ricochet saw his ball come to rest on the fairway just short of the green. He made birdie but immediately gave the shot back on the next, drawing a horrible lie from a mishit tee shot.

McIlroy was now fighting his swing a little but got back into red figures with a birdie on the 15th and chipped beautifully on the 16th to rescue a par. He repeated that feat holing from seven feet for par on the penultimate hole but on the last, he once again missed a green from the fairway, and this time it cost him a bogey, for a level-par 72.

He didn’t have time to dwell on the round as he was due back on the tee, the 10th, to start his second round, 33 minutes (5.44pm, Irish time) after finishing his opening 18 holes. The Northern Ireland golfer was not the only player enjoying see-saw moments.

Bryson DeChambeau’s rip and gouge philosophy was very effective, the American three under after 12 holes. The 13th certainly proved unlucky as he put his tee shot out of bounds on the right – he ran up a double-bogey – and then on the 15th looked in deep trouble when he knocked it off the property once again.

He fashioned an unlikely par on the 15th by getting up and down from about 230 yards, holing an 18 footer to complete the rescue; the par was bookended either side by birdies on 14 and 16 to get him back to three under. However, that wayward bent came back to bite him on the 17th, in trouble off the tee, he ran up a second double bogey.

At least DeChambeau enjoyed some high points unlike his unfortunate playing partner Jordan Spieth, who’d a face like thunder for most of the round as he fought and lost against an errant swing that put him in so much trouble off the tee that not even his fabled short game could rescue this lost cause. A birdie on the last didn’t raise a smile. He eventually signed for a 76.

The third member of the group, the 2019 winner of the tournament Patrick Cantlay produced a fine back nine to shoot a three-under 69, three shots adrift of the leader Collin Morikawa.

Because of Thursday’s delays Shane Lowry (69) won’t start his second round until 10.29pm Irish time while Pádraig Harrington (78) is not out until 10.53pm.

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