Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Rory bristles as Ryder nearly men find form

Turning on power: Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 17th hole during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship
Turning on power: Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 17th hole during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship

Frustrated Rory McIlroy was bumped out of the limelight by the Ryder Cup's nearly-men last night as, on either side of the Atlantic, stirring bids were made for those precious wild cards to be dealt by captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson on Tuesday.

If Hunter Mahan made his case for a place with last Sunday's win at The Barclays, US skipper Watson's elbow was firmly nudged yesterday by Major-winners Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson as the second FedEX play-off, the Deutsche Bank Championship opened at TPC Boston.

The US Ryder Cup points race officially ended at the PGA Championship but Bradley continued to speak eloquently and often of his desire to renew his partnership with Phil Mickelson at Gleneagles.

Well, he backed up those words with spectacular action in the shape of a foot-perfect 65 that gave him the early clubhouse lead on six-under.

Simpson's hopes of a Ryder Cup pick were dented when he missed last week's cut but kindled memories of his 2011 victory at the Deutsche Bank with one of the best rounds of his mediocre season, a 66, to join Aussie Jason Day on five-under in the clubhouse.

The US captain will be encouraged by this performance as Simpson forged an effective partnership with Bubba Watson at Medinah, helping bring the best out of the temperamental double-Masters Champion.

There was good news also from New England for European captain McGinley as fashion icon Ian Poulter at last found his scoring boots during a four-under 67 that featured seven birdies, four of them on the last five holes — and just as we thought the bell was tolling for Luke Donald, he posted a 69.

Yet Europe's undisputed hero yesterday was Stephen Gallacher. The gutsy Scot produced the best nine holes of his life during the second round of the Open d'Italia in Turin to revive his flagging hopes of sneaking into the home team just as the European Ryder Cup points race comes to a conclusion tomorrow afternoon.

Gallacher needs to win or finish second tomorrow to bump Graeme McDowell out of the all-important top nine, so a wayward even-par 72 on Thursday fell well below expectations.

Worse, after an outrageous course record 62 by Hennie Otto, Gallacher found himself 15 off the lead and 12 outside second as he set out after lunch— and his hopes even of earning a pick appeared to be in tatters as he lay outside the projected cut mark through the turn.

However, Gallacher rallied brilliantly to play the back nine in 30 strokes, his six birdie blitz lifting him into the top-10 on seven-under, making his ambitions plain to McGinley.

Padraig Harrington slumped to his fifth missed cut in seven on four over, an erratic 76 by the Dubliner including a quad-bogey eight at three, an eagle at nine and a double-bogey seven at 12, plus three birdies and three bogeys.

As for McIlroy, he started so brilliantly with three glorious birdies in his first four holes in Boston, he looked a shoo-in for a second victory in three years at Deutsche Bank.

Yet the World No 1 picked-up just two more birdies, while some sloppy approach play and spotty chipping and putting contributed to four bogeys and a frustrating 70.

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