Rory McIlroy blows hot and cold at TPC Boston

World No 1 cards one-under 70 in first round of Deutsche Bank Championship

A concerned  Rory McIlroy watches one of  his drives during the first round of the  Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC in Norton, Massachusetts. Photograph: Herb Swanson/EPA

A concerned Rory McIlroy watches one of his drives during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC in Norton, Massachusetts. Photograph: Herb Swanson/EPA

 

Rory McIlroy blew hot and cold in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Friday which, these days, just isn’t his way. A round of 70, one under par, which featured a mixed bag of five birdies and four bogeys, left the 25-year-old Northern Irishman some five strokes adrift of clubhouse leader Keegan Bradley.

But the world number one was far from downbeat. Indeed, after McIlroy finished his round, he playfully flicked a tee peg in the direction of Jason Day and missed. “Not the first one I’ve missed today,” quipped McIlroy, who had started off like a train with three birdies in his opening four holes only to falter coming in.

McIlroy – seeking to return to the top of the FedEx Cup standings – made an ominous early move with birdies on the 10th, where he started, from inside two feet; the 11th, where he holed a 35-footer, and the 13th where he again played a majestic approach to 18 inches. He suffered a first bogey of his round on the 17th, where he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

Although McIlroy returned to three under on his round with a 10-footer for birdie on the fourth, he stumbled coming in with back-to-back bogeys on the fifth (where he found a fairway bunker) and the sixth (where he missed the green left with a poor approach shot). A tap-in birdie on the seventh was followed by a dropped shot on his finishing hole when his tee shot was pushed into the right rough.

“The golf course (is) playing tougher than the last couple of years. It’s firmer, (the) rough is up, windier. . .” said McIlroy, who has his eyes set on capturing the $10 million bonus prize on offer to the winner of the FedEx Cup play-offs. McIlroy – who won the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA in successive tournaments in July-August – fell behind Hunter Mahan into second in FedEx the standings following the opening play-off series event last week, the Barclays.

McIlroy – who is sticking to a plan to play all four play-off events, moving on from Boston to the BMW in Colorado next week and then the Tour Championship in Atlanta – remains very much in the hunt going into the weekend in Boston, where there is a Monday finish on what is the Labour Day holiday in the United States.

Bradley, playing in front of home galleries and seeking to impress US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, showed his form with an opening round 65 and admitted that getting a wild card pick was very much on his mind. “Yeah, it always is . . . when I eat, when I sleep. I’m not going to say a bunch of clichés and say I’m not thinking about the Ryder Cup . . . I know (Watson) is watching.”

But another player from the European camp looking for a captain’s pick for Gleneagles also stepped up to the mark. Ian Poulter, who is outside an automatic spot, needs a wild card pick from Paul McGinley if he is to follow up on his heroics at Medinah two years ago. But, unlike Bradley, the Englishman – who opened with a fine 67 – was adamant he wasn’t thinking of the Ryder Cup. “I’m not thinking about it . . . it’s been a s**t year and I want that to turn around right now,” he said.

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