Rory McIlroy off to a poor start in FedEx Cup playoffs
The 28-year-old sits well off the pace after a disappointing round of 73 at Glen Oaks
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts after putting out on the 18th green during round one of The Northern Trust at Glen Oaks Club in Westbury, New York. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy endured a difficult start to his FedEx Cup playoffs campaign as he slumped to an opening round of 73 at the Northern Trust Open to sit at three over par, nine shots behind first round leader Russell Henley.
The American is one shot clear of world number one Dustin Johnson, who sank six birdies and a solitary bogey.
McIlroy – who is defending the FedEx Cup title he won last year despite the fact that he is still struggling with the effects of a rib injury suffered earlier in the season – was made to pay for a poor back nine after hanging in for most of the front side.
With friend Harry Diamond still on the bag after the 28-year-old said that he wants to “spend time” with any potential new caddies before employing them permanently, McIlroy was confident earlier in the week of rescuing a disappointing season with a good playoff campaign.
However, he now has work to do just to rescue himself in the opening tournament.
An up-and-down front nine saw him card three bogeys but immediately answer back with birdies at the next hole each time to go out in level par.
However, those saving birdies dried up on the back nine as bogeys at the 10th, 13th and 17th saw him drift back to three over and a tie for 95th place.
McIlroy finished in a tie for 22nd in the US PGA Championship earlier this month which completed a third successive year without a major title, and the former world number one later said he was in two minds about competing again in 2017.
But after seeking the advice of sports scientist Steve McGregor in Northern Ireland, McIlroy was told he could not make the injury any worse and will try to win the overall FedEx Cup title — and $10million bonus — for the second year in succession.
There were no such problems for leader Henley as he carded eight birdies and just two bogeys on his way to an opening 64 and a two shot lead on a day where the Glen Oaks Club just outside New York proved to be more than a match for the PGA Tour’s best.
FedEx Cup points leader Hideki Matsuyama endured just the fourth birdie-free round of his PGA Tour career as he carded a round of 74 to sit at four over par.
Hot off his maiden major championship title at the US PGA, Justin Thomas struggled in the opening stages – carding three bogeys in his opening seven holes – but eventually fought back to sign for a 68 and sit four off the lead. He is joined at that mark by Rickie Fowler.
One shot behind Thomas and Fowler is Jordan Spieth after a round of 69.