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How did Harry Diamond do on day one as Rory McIlroy's caddie?

By Gareth Hanna

An opening 67 and Rory McIlroy is well in contention - caddie Harry Diamond must fancy his chances of at least a second interview.

One swallow doesn't make a summer, nor does one promising round make a tournament win but it was a step in the right direction for Rory McIlroy and his new man on the bag at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

McIlroy's three under par opening round was enough to put him well in the mix when he left the 18th green at Firestone. Once upon a time it would have been a round considered merely par for McIlroy's course - but in his current climate, it marks one of the brightest points of his entire season.

To put it into context, it's tied for McIlroy's lowest opening round of the current PGA Tour season and only his fourth first round below 70 all year. While it would be remiss to hang all the credit on his interim caddie's hat - Diamond surely deserves at least some of the acclaim.

Principally, Rory's best man was tasked with keeping the world number four in the right frame of mind - particularly since McIlroy had admitted being at times less than friendly with former caddie JP Fitzgerald on the course.

The early signs, and that's all they are, would indicate that it's so far, so good. Even a loose second shot into Rory's final hole, which caused only his second bogey of the round, was met with a controlled disappointment.

"(Harry) kept me in good spirits out there and it's great to have my best mate on the bag," McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"It was good. It's been a long time since I've written anything in a yardage book but now I'm taking on a little bit more responsibility myself. There were a couple of times I probably should have hit another club but that's on me, that's not on anyone else."

Rory McIlroy says he is taking more responsibility for course management on himself.

The putter hasn't exactly been his friend so far this season - Rory's first round average is over 29 putts per round. But at Firestone, he took 26 shots on the green, including a cool 26 footer for his first birdie on his second hole of the day. It was there that McIlroy really made the ground - can we put the putting down to impeccable lines provided by the caddie? Well, Harry certainly didn't do any harm. Even a three-putt on the last was more down to a sloppy wedge approach than anything else.

As McIlroy reiterated after coming off the course, he's taking much more to do with his own club selection and course management - taking the heat off Diamond. Whatever way they worked it, the pair could scarcely have done better off the tee.

On a course known for boasting the most difficult to hit fairways on the PGA Tour, McIlroy hit 10 of 14 - smashing the usual average of 50% around Firestone. And it certainly wasn't at the cost of distance, as McIlroy's average tee-shot travelled 355 yards, helped by a 372 corker down his final hole of the day.

It was on approach to the green that provided the weakest part of Rory's game - hitting 11 of 18 greens. Would a more experienced caddy be able to help eradicate these flaws? Perhaps - and that could be a mark against Harry Diamond when it comes to long-term selection.

The Sky Sports commentators were more than a little interested in the makeshift caddie's portfolio of pubs but if Diamond can help guide his man round three more rounds like this one, he might be spending a lot less time in his Belfast establishments. First part of the process passed, we'll see you tomorrow for a second interview, Harry.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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