Rory McIlroy makes a bright start to his PGA Tour season
Both McIlroy and Shane Lowry shoot 68s in opening round of Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Rory McIlroy opened with a 68 at Pebble Beach. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Rory McIlroy’s debut career appearance in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am - with his father, Gerry, as a playing partner in the team segment - marked the Northern Irishman’s first outing of the season on the PGA Tour and provided further evidence of his well-being as he posted a four under par opening round of 68.
That effort leaves him three strokes off the first round lead of Kevin Steelman (seven-under-par 65 at Spyglass Hill) and Beau Hossler (65 at Pebble Beach).
Prior to the tournament - which takes in rounds at famed Pebble Beach links, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula for the first three days before a final round back at Pebble Beach itself - McIlroy had talked of where his destiny would take him:
“I want to be one of the best players to ever have played the game when I decide to call it a day. And I know with the right dedication and working on the right things that that could be achievable for me,” said McIlroy, who has returned reinvigorated and with a new hunger since recovering from the rib injury that disrupted his season through the 2017 campaign.
With top-three finishes in each of the Gulf Swing events on the European Tour, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, indicating his well-being, McIlroy wasted no time in leaving his mark on the his seasonal reappearance on the PGA Tour with an opening birdie on the Par 5 first at Spyglass Hill, one of three he claimed on the outward journey.
Indeed, McIlroy birdied all four of the Par 5s at Spyglass Hill - traditionally the toughest of the three courses used in the tournament.
McIlroy was four-under through 15 holes before suffering a bogey on the 16th, when his wayward drive finished in a waste area. However, in keeping with his strong form since his return to action, he rallied on the 18th - holing for a birdie which leaves him firmly in the thick of things.
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Without a win since the Tour Championship in 2016, McIlroy - who has factored in an intensive schedule of eight tournaments up to the Masters in April - said of his quest to get back into the winner’s circle: “There’s some other great players and everyone has chances to win every week and the fields are getting so much deeper, so it’s just about putting yourself in the position and the more you do that, the more comfortable you are in that scenario. The desire’s definitely there.”
If he is to get back to winning ways at Pebble Beach, he is likely to face competition from Dustin Johnson after the world number one posted a 67 at Spyglass Hill on Thursday.
Shane Lowry holed-out with his approach to the first (his 10th of the round) at Monterey Peninsula, that opening eagle also helping him to a round of 68 on Thursday. Lowry’s round was bogey-free, and like McIlroy it leaves him in the hunt.
Elwewhere Graeme McDowell - back at the scene of his greatest triumph, when he won the 2010 US Open - opened with a one-under-par 71 at Pebble Beach.
McDowell was bogey-free until he reached the Par 3 17th where he found a greenside bunker and failed to find the putting surface with his recovery in running up a double-bogey five.
Pádraig Harrington had a horror run on his outward nine, including a quadruple bogey eight on the Par 4 fourth at Monterrey Peninsula. The Dubliner covered the front nine in 41 strokes but came home in 34 - four birdies and a bogey - for an opening round of 75 but immediately facing an uphill battle to survive the cut.
Paul Dunne matched McDowell with a 71 having started on the Spyglass Hill course. Dunne is playing at the event thanks to a sponsor’s invite. Meanwhile Seamus Power is one over par following a 72 on the Monterey Peninsula course.
Collated first round scores in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Pebble Beach GC, United States of America (USA unless stated, par 71):
Monterey Peninsula country club Course -
65 Aaron Wise
66 Cameron Percy (Aus), Patrick Cantlay
67 Peter Malnati , Chris Kirk , Charley Hoffman, Jonas Blixt(Swe), Talor Gooch, Shane Lowry(Irl), Jon Rahm (Spa), Tyrone Van Aswegen(Rsa)
68 Pat Perez , Rory Sabbatini (Rsa), Martin Piller, Chesson Hadley, Bubba Watson , Nicholas Lindheim, Ben Martin, Russell Henley , Ryan Blaum, Brandon Harkins, Corey Conners(Can)
69 Sean O’Hair , Rod Pampling (Aus), Eric Axley , Kyung Ju Choi (Kor), Dominic Bozzelli, Rafael Cabrera-Bello(Spa), Derek Ernst
70 Andrew Putnam , Vaughn Taylor , Benjamin Silverman (Can), Greg Chalmers(Aus), Matt Every , Nate Lashley, Bronson Burgoon, Aaron Baddeley(Aus), Bryson DeChambeau, Jim Herman
71 Adam Schenk , Steve Wheatcroft , Jason Bohn
72 Brian Stuard , Matt Atkins , Charlie Beljan, Seamus Power(Irl)
73 Richy Werenski
74 David Solomon
75 Roberto Diaz (Mex), Padraig Harrington (Irl)
76 Ethan Tracy
79 David Duval
Spyglass Hill GC Course (par 72):
65 Kevin Streelman
66 Julian Suri, Matt Kuchar
67 Dustin Johnson, Will Zalatoris , Keith Mitchell
68 Chris Stroud, Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Jimmy Walker
69 Jason Day (Aus), Steve Stricker , Brian Gay , Gary Woodland, Alex Cejka(Ger), Phil Mickelson, Jonathan Randolph, Zac Blair
70 Kevin Na, Nick Watney , D.A. Points , Jason Kokrak, Patrick Rodgers, Daniel Summerhays
71 Hunter Mahan, Paul Dunne (Irl), Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Billy Horschel, Russell Knox(Sco), Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker
72 Trey Mullinax, Jerry Kelly , Shawn Stefani, Tom Lovelady, Kyle Thompson , Sam Saunders, Jordan Spieth
73 Kelly Kraft, Kevin Chappell , William McGirt, Stuart Appleby(Aus)
74 Maverick McNealy , James Hahn
75 Andrew Yun, CodyGribble , Luke Donald (Eng)
76 Colt Knost
77 Adam Scott (Aus), Mike Weir (Can), Ernie Els (Rsa)
78 Peter Jacobsen
79 Ken Duke
Pebble Beach GC Course (par 72):
65 Beau Hossler
67 Rob Oppenheim, Zecheng Dou (Chn), Paul Casey (Eng), Troy Merritt, Chez Reavie
68 Stephan Jaeger (Ger), Ben Crane , Ted Potter, Jr., Xinjun Zhang(Chn), Branden Grace(Rsa)
69 Brendon De Jonge (Zim), Derek Fathauer
70 Ricky Barnes, George McNeill , Robert Garrigus, Ryan Armour, Cameron Tringale
71 JT Posto , Graeme McDowell (NIrl), David Hearn (Can), Scott Piercy, Robert Streb, Joel Dahmen , J.J. Henry, J.B. Holmes, Sang-moon Bae(Kor), Brice Garnett
72 Denny McCarthy, Scott Stallings , Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Brett Stegmaier, Fabian Gomez(Arg)
73 Scott Brown, Sam Ryder , Stewart Cink , Jonathan Byrd, Johnson Wagner, Cameron Davis(Aus)
74 Billy Hurley III , Grayson Murray , Matt Jones (Aus), Rick Lamb
75 Vijay Singh (Fij), Tim Herron , Nick Taylor (Can), Tom Hoge, Conrad Shindler, Patrick Reed
76 Lanto Griffin
78 Angel Cabrera (Arg)