Rory McIlroy makes a slick start to 2020 with opening 67
Four-time Major winner sits one off the first round lead at Torrey Pines in San Diego
Rory McIlroy made a strong start at Torrey Pines. Photograph: Denis Poroy/AP
Rory McIlroy has achieved so much in his professional career so far that you’d imagine there are very few boxes left to tick. One of those empty boxes is to win in his first outing of the year – a feat which has evaded him every year since his first full season back in 2008 – but the Northern Irishman made an impressive start in the Farmers Insurance Open in his attempt to rectify that statistic.
With the carrot of returning to world number one in the official rankings should he manage to claim victory at Torrey Pines, McIlroy shot a first round five-under-par 67 on the North Course (he will play his second round on the tougher South Course, which is also the course in play for the weekend’s final two rounds) to get right into the thick of things, joining a host of players one shot behind the early clubhouse lead held by Sebastian Cappelen and Keegan Bradley who signed for opening round of 66.
For Tiger Woods a closing birdie four on the North Course was enough for a first round of 69 to leave the eight-time Torrey Pines winner three off the lead.
McIlroy opened his year’s work with a birdie on his opening hole, the Par 5 10th, but found himself back on level par after missing the green with his approach to the 13th and failing to get up-and-down from heavy greenside rough.
But McIlroy immediately recovered from that blip, with a left-to-right breaking putt on the 14th for birdie and then hit a seven-iron approach to 12 feet on the Par 5 17th. He failed to convert the eagle putt, but did tap in for birdie and then rolled in a 25-fooer for birdie on the 18th to turn in three-under-par 33.
McIlroy moved to four-under on his round with a six-footer birdie putt on the second, only to bogey the 250 yards Par 3 third hole. It didn’t take him long to get the stroke back, however, as McIlroy again made use of his power on the Par 5 fifth to get back to four-under. He demonstrated his short game prowess on the drivable Par 4 seventh where his tee shot hit a cart path and finished in heavy rough blocked out by a tree, his recovery again found rough but McIlroy then played a deft chip for a tap-in par save.
Although he missed the green with his approach to the Par 5 ninth hole, McIlroy again demonstrated his sharp short-game in getting up and down from the greenside rough to finish his round with a closing birdie.
Ahead of the tournament, McIlroy revealed how he had changed his mindset after missing the cut in last year’s British Open. “I basically said to myself after Portrush, ‘I’m 30-years-old, I have basically achieved everything that I’ve wanted to achieve in the game, why would I be careful? Why would I not go out there with the most carefree attitude and think everything beyond this is just gravy?’ That’s the mindset that I’m going to try to replicate each and every time that I tee it up.”
The big surprise of the opening round was the play of Denmark’s Sebastian Cappelen, a graduate of the Korn Ferry Tour last season who has shown good early-year form. In backing up a top-10 finish in last week’s American Express Championship, the 29-year-old Dane – ranked 341st in the world – finished with an opening 66 on the harder South Course.
Collated first round scores in the Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines GC, United States of America (USA unless stated, par 72):
66 Keegan Bradley (USA)
67 Joel Dahmen (USA), Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Matthew NeSmith (USA), Xinjun Zhang (Chn), Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Kevin Tway (USA), Sungjae Im (Kor)
68 Brandon Wu (USA), Vincent Whaley (USA), Marc Leishman (Aus), Jon Rahm (Spa), Stewart Cink (USA), Billy Horschel (USA), Dominic Bozzelli (USA), Cameron Tringale (USA)
69 Pat Perez (USA), Tiger Woods (USA), Charley Hoffman (USA), Jason Kokrak (USA), Rhein Gibson (Aus), KK Limbhasut (Tha), Sung Kang (Kor), Wyndham Clark (USA), Patton Kizzire (USA), Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Patrick Reed (USA)
70 Nelson Lauta Ledesma (Arg), Doc Redman (USA), Denny McCarthy (USA), Grayson Murray (USA), Cameron Smith (Aus), Harry Higgs (USA), Ryan Brehm (USA), Collin Morikawa (USA), John Huh (USA), Vince Covello (USA), Michael Gellerman (USA)
71 Bud Cauley (USA), Peter Malnati (USA), Robby Shelton (USA), Michael Gligic (Can), Cameron Champ (USA), Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Chase Seiffert (USA), Talor Gooch (USA), Michael Thompson (USA), Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Jimmy Walker (USA), Joseph Bramlett (USA), Josh Teater (USA)
72 Ben Martin (USA), Nick Watney (USA), Bill Haas (USA), Hank Lebioda (USA), Eddie Olson (USA), Tyler McCumber (USA), Tim Wilkinson (Nzl)
73 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn), Justin Suh (USA), Sam Ryder (USA), Kyle Stanley (USA), Lucas Glover (USA), Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Jamie Lovemark (USA)
74 Brendan Steele (USA), Wes Roach (USA), Carlos Ortiz (Mex), Kramer Hickok (USA), Sebastian Munoz (Col), Doug Ghim (USA)
75 Hunter Mahan (USA), (a) Jacob Bergeron (USA)
76 Alex Beach (USA), Kevin Stadler (USA)
77 Michael Block (USA)
78 Seung-Yul Noh (Kor)
66 Sebastian Cappelen (Den)
67 Bubba Watson (USA)
68 J.B. Holmes (USA), Cameron Percy (Aus)
69 Russell Knox (Sco)
70 Tony Finau (USA), Jason Dufner (USA), Zack Sucher (USA), Patrick Rodgers (USA), Jordan Spieth (USA)
71 Rory Sabbatini (Svk), Scott Stallings (USA), Tom Hoge (USA), Aaron Baddeley (Aus), Kristoffer Ventura (Nor), Maverick McNealy (USA), Ben Taylor (Eng), Martin Laird (Sco)
72 Beau Hossler (USA), Ryan Palmer (USA), Christopher Baker (USA), Harris English (USA), Kevin Streelman (USA), Phil Mickelson (USA), Richy Werenski (USA), Kyung Ju Choi (Kor), Zac Blair (USA)
73 Luke List (USA), Jason Day (Aus), Henrik Norlander (Swe), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Kyoung-hoon Lee (Kor), Max Homa (USA), Ted Potter, Jr. (USA), Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai), J.J. Spaun (USA), Martin Trainer (USA)
74 Steve Stricker (USA), Harold Varner III (USA), Xander Schauffele (USA), Brandon Hagy (USA), Chesson Hadley (USA), Mark Anderson (USA), Bronson Burgoon (USA), Sam Burns (USA), Keith Mitchell (USA)
75 Matt Jones (Aus), Gary Woodland (USA), Robert Streb (USA), Fabian Gomez (Arg), Scottie Scheffler (USA), Justin Rose (Eng), Rickie Fowler (USA), D.J. Trahan (USA), Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Will Gordon (USA)
76 Matthew Wolff (USA), Chris Stroud (USA), Roger Sloan (Can), Austin Cook (USA), John Senden (Aus), Cameron Davis (Aus), Lanto Griffin (USA), Peter Uihlein (USA), Rob Oppenheim (USA), Scott Harrington (USA), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Jim Herman (USA)
77 Trey Mullinax (USA), Harry Hall (Eng)
78 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Scott Brown (USA), Bol Hoag (USA)
79 Francesco Molinari (Ita), Sepp Straka (Aut), Isaiah Salinda (USA)
82 Patrick Martin (USA)