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Rory is left to play catch-up as FedEx Cup dream fades

 

By Tom Phillips

Rory McIlroy's hopes of earning the chance to retain his FedEx Cup title were hanging by a thread after he was left trailing in the first round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms last night.

McIlroy went into the penultimate play-off event for the season-ending tournament 51st in the FedEx Cup standings, meaning he needs to finish in the top four this weekend to reach the top 30 qualifying places.

But an opening round of one-over-par 72 left him languishing 10 strokes behind clubhouse leader Marc Leishman, and seven off the coveted fourth position that he requires to reach the season-ending Tour Championship.

Yesterday's performance will do little to improve matters for the Ulsterman, who entered the tournament at his lowest world ranking - sixth - for more than three years having missed the cut at the Dell Technologies Championship.

Jordan Spieth and Jason Day were among four players sitting three shots adrift of Leishman on six under, while Justin Rose was also making a push as he sat on five under with three holes of his first round still to play.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington's return after a three-week break fell foul of the weather as play was abandoned in the KLM Open at The Dutch in Spijk, Holland yesterday.

Harrington was level-par for five holes of his opening round when Tour officials called a halt due to driving rain and strong winds which made the course unplayable.

Paul Dunne, the only other Irishman in the field, got through three holes and was one-over when the hooter sounded.

By that stage almost half the field had played a full round, with the joint clubhouse lead being held by Bernd Wiesberger of Germany, and Englishman Richard Finch, a former Irish Open champion.

Both of them carded 66, five under par, to lead by a shot from closest challengers Joakim Lageren (Sweden) and Wu Ashun (China).

Nine players did not hit a shot in the first round, which resumes this morning at 7.00am BST.

The signs had been ominous from the start of the week as weather conditions, particularly the wind, looked like having a big bearing on the tournament.

Wednesday's Pro-Am was reduced to nine holes, and Harrington was glad he had some quality practice time with fellow Irishman Dunne on Tuesday.

The Dubliner said on his Facebook page: "I played 18 holes on Tuesday with Paul Dunne, my first time seeing the place.

"Normally I wouldn't play 18 holes on a Tuesday, as I play the Wednesday Pro-Ams, but the weather forecast was bad for Wednesday and I wanted to make sure I saw the course.

"On Tuesday, we had some heavy showers and strong winds so the course played quite tough.

"There is a lot of water on the back nine which, if it's not windy, is not really in play but in the conditions we played in, it comes very much into play."

Typical Harrington, he might have had three weeks off the Tour but he did not put his feet up and chill out.

"I was not taking it easy. I've done the most practice I have for a long time," he added.

"Having struggled the last two tournaments I played, I got stuck into sorting it out, and was also doing some testing on shafts.

"I can't really say I was off, I'm probably coming back out to tournaments to take time off."

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