Deutsche Bank Championship: Rory McIlroy thriving in eye of the hurricane
An eagle by Rory McIlroy at the final hole sealed a superb first round 64 for the Holywood star at The Deutsche Bank Championship, putting him within one stroke of the clubhouse lead as Hurricane Earl bore down on the Tournament Players Club in Boston.
McIlroy seized the benign conditions to shoot the lights out of the course before electrical storms in the vicinity forced the first halt in play at lunchtime.
By that time, hot Aussie prospect Jason Day, 22, and one of his playing companions Zach Johnson, a US Ryder Cup wild card contender, had established the early clubhouse lead with an impressive pair of first round 63's.
The Ulsterman, 21, took no time to stamp his class on the second of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, sinking putts of 12 feet and 25 feet respectively on holes one and two for opening birdies.
Playing sublimely from tee to green, McIlroy breezed to three-under through the turn by holing from seven feet for another birdie at nine.
Though a couple of chances from inside 10 feet went-a-begging during his round, McIlroy could have no complaints after sinking a 25-footer at 14 for his second birdie in three holes.
Yet memories of McIlroy's sensational weekend swoop for victory at Quail Hollow in May and that remarkable record 63 in the first round of The Open at St Andrews came flooding back as he played the 528 yards closing hole in Boston.
After hitting his tee shot, a 3-wood, nicely into position just shy of an encroaching fairway bunker, McIlroy slammed a 243 yards screamer with his 5-metal into the heart of the green before polishing off the 27 foot putt for eagle.
It's a measure of McIlroy's unyielding pursuit of perfection that he actually was displeased with his tee shot on 18. “I didn't hit a great drive, I sort of skied it a little bit and was lucky it ended-up short of that bunker,” he said. “Yet eagle was still a nice way to finish the round.
“I played solidly the whole way around and my swing feels a lot better than it did last week.
“I've got my coach out with me Michael Bannon and we did a lot of hard work over the last couple of days. We pretty much were the last to leave the range and it seemed to pay off today.”
McIlroy joined Ryan Palmer, Ryan Moore and Hunter Mahan in the clubhouse on seven-under as a host of early-starters made the utmost of their remarkable good fortune.
Those scheduled to play in deteriorating conditions during the afternoon, including 2006 Deutsche Bank winner and reigning FedEx Cup holder Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington, were at a distinct disadvantage as Hurricane Earl wobbled around unpredictably just over the eastern horizon.
“We got a nice draw. It was perfect,” McIlroy confirmed. “I can go in now and put my feet up and watch a bit of the US Open tennis. Ulster are playing The Ospreys in their first match of the season in a couple of hours and I'm going to try and catch that on the Sling Box.
“Conditions were just perfect for us out there. There was no wind and the greens were a lot softer than yesterday. Obviously they threw a lot of water on them overnight and when you get balls stopping on these greens, as good as they are, guys are going to shoot some good scores.”
Meanwhile, despite his own frustration, European vice-captain Darren Clarke could not be more pleased to see the only two Ryder Cup players competing in Switzerland lying first and equal second after two rounds of the Omega European Masters.
Miguel Angel Jimenez snatched two eagles in a new course record of a 10-under-par 61.
Celtic Manor rookie Edoardo Molinari (65) and 17-year-old fellow Italian Matteo Manassero (67) are tied in second place at 11-under par.
Clarke heads the four Irish to make the cut, despite the smallest club in his bag again providing the biggest problems in his round of 70 for a five-under-par tally.
“It's fantastic for the team that both Miguel and Edoardo are in contention and it's the reason they're in the Ryder Cup team,” said Clarke. “Edoardo's form is very impressive so he continues to show the worth of being picked.”
Fellow Ulstermen Michael Hoey (69) and Gareth Maybin (71) made the cut with two-under-par totals as did Peter Lawrie (69) right on the one-under-par mark. Missing out were Paul McGinley (72) at four-over par, which was matched by Shane Lowry.