Late eagle swoops McIlroy to share of first-round lead
WASHINGTON—Rory McIlroy’s late eagle lifted him into a tie for the BMW Championship first-round lead on Thursday alongside world number one Jon Rahm and American Sam Burns.
Rahm, the defending champion in the second of three events in the US Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, had eight birdies in his eight-under par 64 at Caves Valley Golf Club in suburban Baltimore, Maryland.
Burns also went bogey-free on the rain-softened layout, his eight birdies including four in a row from the 11th through the 14th.
McIlroy teed off late and joined the leaders with a rare eagle at the tough par-five 16th, where his 285-yard second shot from the fairway left him an 11-footer.
“It’s as good as I can hit a three-wood,” he said of his approach.
The eagle was especially gratifying, he said, since he has played par-fives “very poorly” in recent weeks.
“Even the front nine today, not making birdie on either of the par-fives on the front side, I was sort of thinking, here we go again.
“It was nice to play the par-fives better on the back.”
The Northern Ireland star, a four-time major-winner currently ranked 16th in the world, added seven birdies and one bogey.
He hit 13 of 14 fairways in regulation as he matched his lowest round of the season—a 64 in the final round of the Phoenix Open back in February.
His four birdies on the front nine included a 30-foot putt at the seventh hole—an energizer for a player who admitted this week he was feeling the effects of a busy schedule that included the British Open and Tokyo Olympics in July and the weather-disrupted Northern Trust that ended on Monday.“
A lot of positive signs out there,” said McIlroy, who arrived at Cave Valley ranked 28th in the playoff points standings.
Only the top 30 in the standings advance to the playoffs-ending Tour Championship.
Rahm, who won this title at Olympia Fields near Chicago last year, can head into the Tour Championship atop the standings with his first successful US PGA Tour title defense.
The Spaniard bounced back seamlessly from a disappointing finish at the Northern Trust, where he led much of the way and settled for third after a hurricane postponed the final round to Monday.
That was only the latest oddity in Rahm’s season, one in which he captured his first major title at the US Open but also had to withdraw from Memorial with a six-shot lead because of a positive COVID-19 test. —AFP
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