NEWTON SQUARE, Pa. – It’s not often that Rory McIlroy gets a momentum bump from a pro-am round. Wednesdays generally are not a productive scoring day for him
“My stroke average in pro-ams is probably about 75.7,” he acknowledged.
But this Wednesday at the BMW Championship was different. McIlroy played his final nine holes of the pro-am at Aronimink in 8-under 27, including a stretch of seven consecutive birdies.
McIlroy was still on fire a day later. He played his first 14 holes in Thursday’s first round in 9 under, reeling off six straight birdies at one point. By the time he got to his 15th hole, the par-4 sixth, he was thinking 59.
A couple of late bogeys dashed those dreams, but his 8-under 62 still was good enough to share the first-round lead with Tiger Woods.
And that 23-hole stretch over two days in which he shot 17 under?
“Oh, that’s pretty good,” McIlroy said.
Two weeks ago, McIlroy sat out the FedExCup Playoffs opener in order to work on a few things. Last week, he tied for 12th, shooting 67-66 in his middle two rounds at TPC Boston. On Thursday, he was in full Rory mode, hitting 11 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens and averaging 24 feet, 3 inches proximity to the pin – second-best average of the day.
“It’s a golf course that just seems to fit my eye,” McIlroy said. “I like the greens. You can work the ball in off the slopes. You got to hit it pretty wild to start missing fairways. So if you get your ball in the short stuff, you can get it going.”
McIlroy’s 62 was his lowest round of the year by two strokes and is just one off his career low. But through 14 holes, it looked like he was headed for the record books. Asked if he was disappointed not to have shot 59, McIlroy could only smile.
“Geez, Debbie Downer here,” he said. “… I’m not going to say it stinks too bad because I’d much rather shoot 62 today and win the golf tournament Sunday than shoot 59 today and maybe not win.”
No matter how things turn out the rest of the week, though, perhaps McIlroy will take a new approach toward pro-ams.
“Maybe I should try a little harder on Wednesdays,” he said. “It seemed to work this time.”
Rory McIlroy’s approach sets up 3-foot birdie at BMW
One person who did not play in the pro-am was Tiger Woods, who took off on Wednesday after playing nine holes with McIlroy on Tuesday. “I needed it, I really did,” Woods said after his 62, his lowest score on the PGA TOUR in five years. “I just played a lot of golf in the last six weeks and I needed a day to recover and make sure I was fresh for today.” Woods is the co-leader after 18 holes for the first time since the 2013 World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
Rickie Fowler missed the first two FedExCup Playoffs events with an oblique injury, but it certainly didn’t impact him Thursday. He shot a bogey-free 5-under 65, his round getting off to a quick start with a birdie putt from just inside 12 feet. Fowler hit 12 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens. “I’m happy we’re back this early as far as coming back from the injury,” Fowler said. “You never know exactly how long those things are going to last, and especially with our sport being very rotational-oriented, having the oblique was a little scary. But happy that we’re in a good spot now.
Speaking of Fowler … he worse custom-made yellow shoes that honored the late Jarrod Lyle. The shoes included the birth and death dates for Lyle, along with his initials on the back of one shoe and an image of his bucket hat on the other. Fowler said he was hoping to wear the shoes on the weekend at the PGA Championship (Lyle died the day before the first round) “but I didn’t have anything to wear them with, so I couldn’t really make it work. … Obviously we don’t want to ever forget Jarrod.”
Although admittedly tired after winning the first two FedExCup Playoffs events, points leader Bryson DeChambeau spent more than an hour on the practice green after signing for a 3-under 67. DeChambeau missed a birdie putt inside 10 feet early in his round but likely was more frustrated with missing a 6-foot par putt at the par-3 eighth for his only bogey of the day. DeChambeau is assured of No. 1 status after this week, no matter how he fares.
Jordan Spieth played in the same threesome as Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. Those two got off to hot starts, but it took longer for Spieth to heat up, as he birdied three of his last four holes to shoot a 3-under 67. “The toughest part is when there’s that many birdies within the group, him and Rickie, it’s tough not to force it when I was out of position all day,” Spieth said. “So I thought my 3 under was fantastic from places I played today.”
Due to the threat of inclement weather Friday afternoon, tee times for the second round have been moved up. Play will begin at 7 a.m. ET, with threesomes off two tees.
Jordan Spieth makes birdie at No. 12 at BMW
QUOTABLESMy body just remembers it.That was weird, right? All three of us.I'm not very old but I feel like I shouldn't be making those mistakes, second year veteran out here.
Lowest rounds: The 8-under 62s shot by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Combined, they made 1 eagle, 17 birdies and 3 bogeys.
Bogey-free rounds: Rickie Fowler (65), Brian Gay (66), Henrik Stenson (66), Paul Casey (69).
Longest drive: Brooks Koepka’s 361-yard tee shot at the par-5 ninth. Koepka also had a drive of 354 yards at the seventh hole.
Longest putt: Beau Hossler’s birdie putt from 70 feet, 1 inch at the par-4 15th.
Hardest hole: The 246-yard par-3 eighth played to a stroke average of 3.420. Just three birdies were made by the 69 players in the field (Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Chris Kirk).
Easiest hole: The 542-yard par-5 16th played to a stroke average of 4.304. Six eagles and 38 birdies were made there, while just two players suffered bogeys (Chesson Hadley, Brandt Snedeker).
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of the second round of the BMW Championship, listen at PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Tiger Woods' 241-yard approach sets up eagle for Shot of the Day