Rory McIlroy rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday morning. It is a tradition that the defending champion from the Deutsche Bank Championship ring the bell.
McIlroy is currently No. 36 in the FedExCup standings after a T19 at last week's The Barclays.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Rory McIlroy continues to say he's "close" and for the better part of 16 holes at Liberty National on Thursday, he was.
Then came the par-4 ninth, where he tugged his driver a bit and his ball bounced off a cart path and out of bounds. He went on to make double bogey, his third of the day.
"Colorful," said McIlroy, who also had four birdies and an eagle en route to an even-par 71. "I made a few silly mistakes out there."
The first of those mistakes came on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole of the day, where he pulled his tee shot left and into the tall grass and then missed the green left on his next. McIlroy pitched back across and off the green before eventually two-putting from 6 feet for his first double bogey.
On the par-4 fifth he missed left again, this time yanking his approach shot from 162 yards into the water to set up the second double bogey.
He rebounded quickly by reaching the 514-yard par-5 sixth in two and making a 13-footer for eagle before pouring in a 28-footer for birdie on the following hole.
But McIlroy missed a golden opportunity to keep the momentum going on the par-5 eighth, however, leaving his approach short of the green and then leaving himself 15 feet for birdie after at best a mediocre pitch.
"I felt like I played well," he said. "Three 6s, which obviously doesn't help. But the rest of it was actually pretty good."
McIlroy finished in a tie for eighth at 3 under at Oak Hill. (Carr/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Rory McIlroy made a speedy exit following his final round at Oak Hill, quickly putting on his tennis shoes after answering a few questions and heading to the airport.
In reality, he departed much earlier in the day when his 9-iron approach to the fifth green spun back into the water. He went on to make triple bogey and ended any hopes for a second straight PGA Championship.
While McIlroy didn't leave with the Wanamaker trophy, he did gain something else -- confidence.
"It's close," McIlroy said of his game. "I played really good today. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the (FedExCup) Playoffs."
To his point, McIlroy rallied with three birdies over his final 13 holes, making just one bogey the rest of the day en route to an even-par 70 and a tie for eighth at 3 under.
It wasn't all that dissimilar to what he did on Friday when, staring at missing the cut in a second straight major, he made four birdies over his final seven holes to get to the weekend.
He kept the momentum going a day later with a 67 that got him into contention, six shots off the lead going into the final round.
"I'm just disappointed because I felt like if I would have capitalized on the way I played, (the outcome) would have been much better," McIlroy said of his final round. "But it's definitely a step in the right direction."
And an important one for McIlroy, who still has the FedExCup Playoffs and events overseas left on his calendar.
"I've got four big weeks coming up and want to finish the PGA TOUR season well, and I have some events in Asia, so I could still salvage a bit of the season," he said. "I saw a lot of great signs out there today."
Rory McIlroy is looking for his third major championship. (Canon/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Don't look now but Rory McIlroy is back in the hunt at the PGA Championship.
The defending champion closed with two straight birdies in a round of 67 on Saturday that lifted McIlroy to 3 under and into the top 10 on the rapidly-changing leaderboard. That jump of 21 spots could hardly have come at a better time for the young man looking for his first victory of the season.
McIlroy showed a flair for the dramatic when he drained a long putt at the 17th hole and then chipped in from behind the green at No. 18. The 24-year-old Northern Irishman, who says he's been trying to enjoy the game more of late, followed that ball into the hole with a big grin and a series of subtle fist pumps.
"I couldn't have pitched a more perfect pitch," McIlroy said.
The 17th was playing as the hardest hole in the third round when McIlroy finished while the 18th, which was into the prevailing wind, was the fifth most difficult. So the birdies were particularly well-earned.
"I probably made up at least three, three-and-a-half shots on those last two holes," McIlroy said. He later added that a birdie at the 17th, a demanding 509-yard par 4, actually felt more like an eagle.
The round of 67, which included four birdies and a lone bogey, was a huge confidence-boost for McIlroy. He had to battle to make the cut on Friday after playing his first nine holes in 39 and finding himself 4 over for the tournament at the turn.
"To play like that on this golf course and do what I needed to do yesterday just to make the cut, and then to go out and play the way I did today, yeah, it's been a good stretch of holes," McIlroy said. "I've got another 18 to play, and hopefully I can just keep playing the way I am."
McIlroy said he expected Oak Hill to be set up tougher on Saturday -- and he knew the wind swirling through the oaks was going to be a challenge. But he drew strength from his win at the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship where he made the cut on the number and then shot 66-62 to earn the victory.
"It gives me a bit confidence knowing that I've been in that position before and I've been able to win," McIlroy said. "I know this is a major championship and it's a bit different, but I felt good enough about my game that I could go out there and post a good one today and at least give myself a chance going into tomorrow."
McIlroy, who has yet to win on either side of the Atlantic this year, said he began to see progress last week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational where he tied for 27th. On Saturday at Oak Hill he hit half his fairways and 10 greens in regulation while using 25 well-timed putts.
"My short game has been really, really good," McIlroy said. "It was just a matter of trying to get a long game in shape. I wouldn't say that that was my best ball-striking round out there by any means, but I got it up and down when I needed to and that was the most important thing."
McIlroy is even par through 36 holes at Oak Hill. (Carr/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Six months ago, Rory McIlroy might not have been able to recover (see, The Honda Classic).
Friday at Oak Hill, however, the former No. 1 rallied with four birdies over his final seven holes to shoot 71, putting him at even par and safely through to the weekend at the PGA Championship.
Only once in his young career has McIlroy missed the cut in back-to-back majors, in 2010, but that's what he was facing after a shaky start in a rain-soaked second round.
McIlroy bogeyed his first hole of the day, No. 10, before making double bogey on the par-3 15th and adding two more bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18.
"I was letting the round get away from me somewhat," McIlroy said. "I had some nice shots coming in and more importantly for me hit some good putts coming in, which was good to see. Pretty happy and just looking forward to the weekend."
Considering how his season has gone and where his round was going, it was a step in the right direction for McIlroy.
Once the rain lightened, McIlroy worked his way back into it, hitting a 3-iron to 6 feet on the par-3 third.
He added another birdie on the par-5 fourth, chipping to 8 feet and making the putt.
Three holes later, McIlroy drained a 40-foot putt from just off the green before his final birdie from 3 feet on the next hole.
"It makes me feel good because maybe in the middle of the season or a couple of months ago I wouldn't have been standing up here," McIlroy said. "I would have been going home. It's good to be able to do that and fight back and it makes you feel good about yourself going into the weekend."
Could it be the turning point that the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational was a year ago when, coming off a series of missed cuts, McIlroy finished fifth at Firestone a week before his record-setting victory at Kiawah Island?
"Could be, yeah," McIlroy said.
At least he'll be around for the weekend to find out.
McIlroy broke par in the opening round of a major this year for the first time. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A year ago, Rory McIlroy trailed by just one after the opening round of the PGA Championship before lapping the field in a record victory.
After a three-putt bogey on the 17th hole Thursday at Oak Hill, he's only 1 under after the first round and five off the lead of Adam Scott and Jim Furyk.
McIlroy carded a 69 with five birdies and four bogeys in an up-and-down afternoon, interrupted by an hour-long weather delay. When the defending champion returned from the break, he rolled in his putt for birdie on the 12th hole.
He had another opportunity on 13, but much the way his season has been inconsistent so was his round and he missed it.
McIlroy didn't make another birdie the rest of the round, finishing with five pars and a bogey on a day that started much better than it ended.
In a year that has seen zero wins, a mid-round walk off and only four top 10s on the PGA TOUR all year (and none since May), McIlroy looked like he might finally be ready to break out of his slump.
He started with birdies on three of his first four holes Thursday.
McIlroy bogeyed the fifth but added another birdie on No. 9 to make the turn in 3 under and within two of the lead. But back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 killed his momentum.
"Today was definitely positive," McIlroy said. "To shoot under par today was a solid way to get off to any major."
Soft conditions, from overnight rain and more in the middle of the round, however, provided plenty of birdie opportunities. Thirty-five players broke par. Of that group, 10 of them were at 3 under or better.
McIlroy hit nine fairways and a dozen greens, using driver eight times in the round to combat the wet conditions. By comparison, Tiger Woods, who played in the morning before the interruption, hit just one.
It was, however, the first time the former world No. 1 has broken par in the opening round of a major this year, which left him feeling better about his game.
Said McIlroy, "You go and you get off to a good start (Friday), you are right there."
Rory McIlroy, who defends his PGA Championship title this week at Oak Hill, provides an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his home in Jupiter, Fla., and also shares how music is an intricate part of his life.
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McIlroy is six shots off the lead after the opening round at Firestone. (Shamus/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- All in all, Rory McIlroy couldn't be too disappointed with that round of 70 he shot during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday.
Particularly not after the way the young Northern Irishman fought back from that double bogey at the 10th hole at Firestone Country Club.
McIlroy was 2 over for the day when he stepped to the 11th tee but three birdies on his next five holes got things headed in the right direction. He wasn't happy with that bogey at the 18th hole, of course, but he did manage to steady the ship.
"Some good, some bad," McIlroy said as he assessed his round. "I felt like I hit a lot of good shots out there, drove the ball well for the most part, gave myself a lot of chances for birdies, and I just threw a few shots away around the greens. ... You know, you start to save shots there, and all of a sudden you're 3 , 4 under par, 5 under par.
"No, I played well, hit a lot of good shots and felt more comfortable with my putting, which was a good sign."
McIroy's troubles at the 10th hole began when he hit his drive well left on the other side of the cart path. He chipped back into the fairway, but his third shot from 112 yards stopped short of the green and McIlroy took three to get down from 24 feet, missing from 5 for bogey.
At that point, the frustrated McIlroy set himself a goal -- "I just wanted to get back to even par," he said. The 24-year-old proceeded to make a 10-footer for birdie at No. 12, a 21-footer at the 13th and 6-footer at No. 15. McIlroy also had a 5-footer at the 14th hole that would have made it four straight birdies stubbornly refuse to fall.
"Just trying to stay patient," McIlroy said. "I mean, we've got four days here, so no point in trying to be aggressive."
Another lapse at the 18th hole, though, ended his round at even par as McIlroy just missed the 18th green, chipped to 12 feet and couldn't convert the saving putt. Even so, McIlroy opened with a 70 last year and managed to finish in a tie for fifth -- then win three of his next five starts, including the PGA.
"I feel very comfortable on this golf course," he said. "I see my shots off the tee. I feel comfortable. I like the greens. ... I've played well here, and I come in with obviously some good positive thoughts."
All of which made it easier to relax on a day when he hit eight fairways, 10 greens and used just 28 putts.
"I'm just trying to enjoy myself this week, enjoy my golf, play with a bit more of a smile on my face, and I sort of did that," McIlroy said.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Just under a fortnight ago, Rory McIlroy was using words like "brain dead" and "unconscious" to describe his mental state after he shot 79 in the first round of The Open Championship.
The 24-year-old Northern Irishman went on to miss the cut at Muirfield, a strident and strategic links where the mental focus he lacked was as important as being fundamentally sound. McIlroy returns to competition this week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in a much better frame of mind, though.
"That's why I was obviously a little bit despondent after those two days," McIlroy said. "But it's something you just leave in the past. It's not something you dwell on at all. I've left it behind, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.
"I've got a lot of great events coming up and events that I did well at last year. So hopefully those positive memories can see me through and I can start to play the golf that I know that I can."
A year ago, McIlroy caught fire with a fifth-place finish at Firestone Country Club. He went on to win the PGA Championship at Kiawah the following week, as well as two events during the FedExCup Playoffs. He'd like nothing better than to turn the 2013 season around similarly.
"I was sitting up here this time last year probably not feeling as if my game was in great shape, and I'm sitting up here this year a lot more positive," McIlroy said. "So that's a great sign.
"It's a great golf course. It's a golf course I feel like I can do well on, and ... if something similar could happen like it did last year, get a good finish here or get into contention, obviously that would set me up for the last major of the season and going on from there, set me up for the great end of the year."
McIlroy went back to basics, of sorts, to recapture that positive outlook. After spending four days in Monaco, he went home to Northern Ireland, worked with his coach Michael Bannon and played golf with some of his friends. In fact, he shot 7 under on his last seven holes at Holywood.
"It's nice to go out and play for the sake of playing, not playing because you have to or play because whatever," McIlroy said. "Just go out and play and enjoy and play some courses that I played growing up.
"It makes you realize why you play the game. It makes you realize why you started, because you love the game. And when you were younger, you'd sort of do anything you could to sort of get out on the golf course."
McIlroy had done some similar soul-searching before last year's Bridgstone Invitational. He and Bannon and short-game wizard Dave Stockton came to the conclusion that he was too focused on mechanics and technique. He needed to just go out and play the game -- and enjoy what he was doing in the process.
He'd do well to heed those words again this week.
"I've become a little bit too emotionally involved with my golf over the past few months, I guess," McIlroy said. "And I've let it either get me excited or get me down, where I should really just not get too high or too low about it at all."