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Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods under par after making putter changes for the opening round of the Northern Trust

 

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Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start in his first round at The Northern Trust.

Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start in his first round at The Northern Trust.

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Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start in his first round at The Northern Trust.

Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start to get himself under par after the opening round of the PGA Tour's first FedEx Cup play-off event.

McIlroy is two under at The Northern Trust after carding a two under par 69 at TPC Boston.

Starting on the back nine, the world number three found himself two over par through his opening four holes thanks a failure to get up and down after missing the 12th green and a wayward drive at the next.

Bar that lapse, it was an altogether impressive opening round that saw McIlroy end up five shots behind leader Harris English after the morning starters.

The revival began on the par four 15th when a birdie kickstarted a run of four shots picked up in six holes.

Three of those came from came via impressive birdie putts with the TaylorMade Soto Blade putter, in the bag in place of his mallet-style Spider.

Only a two-putt was required for another bird at the par five second, Rory's 11th hole of the day, after an accurate 222 yard second shot over the water and onto the green.

A drop shot at the next brought him back to one under par, followed by an even more disappointing five foot birdie putt that slid by at the fourth.

He was to make amends at the next with another stitched approach to return to -2, with an impressive sand save on the eighth getting him in the clubhouse in a tie for 18th after the morning starters.

That's one behind Tiger Woods, who also recovered from a slow start on the back nine, one over par through eight. The 15-time major champion began his fight-back with a birdie at the ninth and backed it up with a run of four birdies in a six-hole stretch on his back nine, which ended with a frustrating bogey to leave him three under par.

Woods had putted with a new, longer Scotty Cameron at the PGA Championship earlier this month but has his old, trusty Scotty, with which he has won 14 of his 15 majors, back in the bag this week.

It was that decision that paid dividends as he ended with 29 putts, gaining over a shot on the field. Why put it back in the bag now?

"Just stubbornness, I guess," he said. "I had one good day at the PGA Championship, the first day, and then after that I didn't really putt well.

"When I was at home practicing I didn't really use this putter. I was practicing with the other one to make sure I could get some reps and get some feel, and all of I sudden - heck with it, I'll just put it in play and see how it goes. It worked.

"I had a good feel today. I had nice pace, and I like the speed of these greens. They're fast. Even though they're soft, but they're still quick. I just felt comfortable. That's one of the weird things about golf. It's just the way it is sometimes."

Hot on leader English's heels are Louis Oosthuizen, Charley Hoffman and Scott Piercy, both one shot back, with Ian Poulter a further shot adrift.

Ryder Cup hero Poulter, who is aiming to make it through to the Tour Championship for the first time in two weeks alongside the FedEx Cup's top 30 players, was in philosophical mood after his impressive opening round.

"I really haven't done any good in the Playoffs before, so I've never made it to East Lake," he reflected. "It's a myth apparently to me. Apparently it's a nice golf course, but what would I know? I've never been there.

"I think what's important to me is that I just go out and enjoy my golf and play well. If I play well and I move up, that's great, and if not, I really don't care, I'm going to go home to the family. Whatever happens this week is a win-win."

Additional line for the bottom: Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry were both amongst the afternoon starters as they require a positive week to make it through, as part of the top 70 ranked players in the FedEx Cup, to next week's BMW Championship.

Belfast Telegraph