Rory McIlroy struggles at Riviera as Sam Burns takes the lead
Stellar field at Genesis is bunching up with Johnson, Koepka and Spieth well-placed
Rory McIlroy lets go of his club as he tees off on the 11th hole during the first round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Photo: Ryan Kang/AP Photo
Rory McIlroy struggled in the opening round of the Genesis Invitational on Thursday with a two over par round of 73 leaving him nine shots behind the leader Sam Burns.
McIlroy birdied his opening hole at Riviera but then dropped shots at the third and the fifth before picking up another birdie at the Par 4 eighth. However, further dropped shots at the 10th and 15th left him well back.
Two shots further back at four over par is European Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington after a 75 while Bryson DeChambeau also endured a tough start to the week with a 75 of his own which included a double bogey at the 12th.
At the top of the leaderboard is Burns who opened with an eagle and closed with three consecutive birdies while building a two-shot lead.
Burns shot a seven under par 64 while Max Homa and Matt Fitzpatrick share second at five under.
It is the first time Burns has held the lead after the first round of a tour event, but he has been among the top five after the first round on four occasions this season – tied for the most of any player.
Patrick Cantlay, Wyndham Clark, Scottie Scheffler, Tyler McCumber, Jason Kokrak, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Australia’s Matt Jones and Sweden’s Alex Noren share fourth place at four under.
In a strong field at this week’s event, world No1 Dustin Johnson, back in action after withdrawing last week to rest, sits at three under in a tie which includes Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari and Jordan Spieth who continued his resurgent good form seen over the last two weeks.
Burns, 24, is winless in 69 previous PGA Tour starts. His best result was a tie for third place in the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship.
He came out of the blocks fast at the start with an eagle at the first after hitting the green in two. After adding four birdies and two bogeys over the next 14 holes, Burns capped a stellar day with three birdies in-a-row to finish at the 16th, 17th and 18th.
“I think we were just pretty consistent throughout the round,” Burns said. “We knew we were going to have a tough stretch there to kind of start the back nine. I think just being patient out here (helped).
“This golf course at times doesn’t offer you a lot of opportunities, so I think just with that mindset going in we were just going to kind of take what we could get.”
Fitzpatrick also eagled the first, but it was his 10th hole of the day.
“It was a good day overall,” Fitzpatrick said. “I felt like I played probably better than my tee-to-green stats would suggest. My swing actually felt pretty good. There’s a couple loose ones in there, try to fix that this afternoon, but on the whole it’s a great start, couldn’t ask for any better.”
Homa’s day was highlighted by a string of four consecutive birdies mid-round.
“I did everything really well,” Homa said. “It was pretty stress-free. I drove it really well, I kept my irons where I needed to keep them. I missed quite a few greens in the beginning, but they were always in the right spots so I kind of felt like I stayed patient, trusted my game’s in a good spot and kind of just went with what was given to me.”
Collated scores in the USPGA The Genesis Invitational, The Riviera Country Club, California (USA unless stated, Par 71):
64 Sam Burns
66 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Max Homa
67 Patrick Cantlay, Wyndham Clark, Matt Jones (Aus), Jason Kokrak, Tyler McCumber, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Alexander Noren (Swe), Scottie Scheffler
68 Keegan Bradley, Talor Gooch, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Sebastian Munoz (Col), Jordan Spieth
69 Wesley Bryan, Tyler Duncan, Jim Furyk, Lanto Griffin, Russell Henley, Charley Hoffman, Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Tae-Hoon Kim (Kor), Andrew Landry, Marc Leishman (Aus), Adam Long, Adam Scott (Aus), Cameron Smith (Aus), Cameron Tringale, Will Zalatoris
70 Rickie Fowler, J. B. Holmes, Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor), Luke List, Willie Mack III, Troy Merritt, Kevin Na, Matthew NeSmith, Jon Rahm (Spa), Kyle Stanley, Sepp Straka (Aut), Harold Varner III, Richy Werenski
71 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Ryan Armour, Cameron Davis (Aus), Tony Finau, Doug Ghim, Lucas Glover, Branden Grace (Rsa), Adam Hadwin (Can), Scott Harrington, Viktor Hovland (Nor), Sung-Hoon Kang (Kor), Si Woo Kim (Kor), Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Chengtsung Pan (Tai), Pat Perez, Patrick Rodgers, Xander Schauffele, Brandt Snedeker, Brendan Steele, Camilo Villegas (Col), Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Andrew Putnam
72 Corey Conners (Can), Austin Cook, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Brian Gay, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Brian Harman, Tom Hoge, Danny Lee (Nzl), Maverick McNealy, Henrik Norlander (Swe), Kevin Streelman, Nick Taylor (Can), Vaughn Taylor, Brendon Todd
73 Stewart Cink, Jim Herman, Bo Hoag, Russell Knox (Sco), Nate Lashley, Peter Malnati, Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Collin Morikawa, Scott Piercy, Chez Reavie, Robby Shelton, Robert Streb, Michael Thompson, Gary Woodland
74 Joel Dahmen, James Hahn, Mark Hubbard, Denny McCarthy, J. T. Poston, Doc Redman
75 John Augenstein, Bryson DeChambeau, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Pádraig Harrington (Irl), Harry Higgs, Martin Laird (Sco), Carlos Ortiz (Mex), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Brian Stuard, Angus Flanagan (Eng)
76 Xinjun Zhang (Chn), Tim Widing (Swe)
77 Justin Thomas
78 Ty Strafaci, Jimmy Walker
79 Charles Howell III