Mcilroy tunes up early for Ryder Cup

Rory McIlroy hitting his tee shot on the 14th hole in the Tour Championship first round in Atlanta, Georgia. His inconsistent play is not ideal for strokeplay but will work well for the matchplay format of next week's Ryder Cup.
Rory McIlroy hitting his tee shot on the 14th hole in the Tour Championship first round in Atlanta, Georgia. His inconsistent play is not ideal for strokeplay but will work well for the matchplay format of next week's Ryder Cup.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Up-and-down 68 puts him joint-seventh but birdie streak sets him up well for next week

ATLANTA • Rory McIlroy's roller- coaster opening round at the Tour Championship on Thursday was not ideal for strokeplay but just about perfect for the matchplay format of next week's Ryder Cup.

Northern Irishman McIlroy is the only member of the European Ryder Cup team in the 30-man field at East Lake in Atlanta, where eight players from the United States team are in action ahead of next week's showdown in Chaska, Minnesota.

The former world No. 1 had consecutive double-bogeys midway through his round, preceded by three straight early birdies and followed by an even better late run of four successive birdies.

"When I get it going, I can really run with it and then when it goes the other way I struggle to get out of it a little bit. But that's the nature of the way my game is right now, and how it has been for most of the year," McIlroy told reporters after carding a two-under 68 that left him two strokes off the lead and tied for seventh.

He also observed that his ability to make plenty of birdies should stand him in good stead for next week.

"This sort of golf next week would actually be okay at the Ryder Cup," said the four-time Major champion, currently world No. 3.

  • MCILROY'S ROLLER-COASTER ROUND 1

    HOLE 1

    +1 Rory McIlroy gets off on the wrong footing with a bogey at the par-four.

    HOLES 3-5

    -2 He steadies himself with a par before holing three straight birdies. In matchplay, he would have a good chance of winning three holes.

    HOLES 7-8

    +2 His inconsistency rears its ugly head when he makes back-to-back double bogeys. He loses four strokes but, in matchplay, the damage would mean a loss of at most two holes.

    HOLES 12-15

    -2 McIlroy wraps up his birdie spree with four in a row, with birdie chances on the par-four 16th and 17th as well that he fails to take.

"Make seven birdies and you're going to do okay."

At the top of the leader board, world No. 2 Dustin Johnson continued his "good mojo" to earn a tie for the first-round lead with Kevin Chappell and Hideki Matsuyama.

The power-hitting US Open champion continued to make a fickle game look easy, compiling five birdies in a seemingly effortless four-under 66.

"I felt like I had good mojo going all day and swung it very nicely," Johnson told Golf Channel.

"I hit a lot of great shots with the irons and drove it nicely. That puts together a good score."

Johnson, fellow American Chappell and Japan's Matsuyama headed Australian world No. 1 Jason Day, South Korean Kim Si Woo and American Kevin Kisner by one stroke.

The Tour Championship is the season ender on the PGA Tour before the Ryder Cup next week.

And Sky Sports pundit Paul Azinger believes Lee Westwood's claim that the presence of Tiger Woods in the US Ryder Cup backroom team might have "an adverse effect" could backfire against Europe.

Azinger, the last man to captain the US to victory in 2008, has said that the comment could make the US players more determined to win on home soil.

He was responding to Englishman Westwood's suggestion that Woods, who will be one of Davis Love III's vice-captains next week, had never been able to bond successfully with his team-mates at the Ryder Cup.

Azinger, who played with Woods at the Belfry in 2002, said that he was a positive presence behind the scenes.

"Tiger was anything but a divisive figure," Azinger said. "He was one of the younger players and didn't say a whole lot, but he was terrific to be around.

"Westwood is smart. He likes to put the needle in a little bit once in a while. He had a little intent there, but it could backfire."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Mcilroy tunes up early for Ryder Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe