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Rory McIlroy endures familiar feeling of frustration at The Northern Trust

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Creeping in: Rory McIlroy was unable to keep the bogeys off his card. Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Creeping in: Rory McIlroy was unable to keep the bogeys off his card. Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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Michael Hoey. Credit: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Michael Hoey. Credit: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

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Creeping in: Rory McIlroy was unable to keep the bogeys off his card. Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It was another up and down day for Rory McIlroy on the PGA Tour as the Holywood man kicked off his push for a third FedEx Cup with a level-par 71 in his opening round at The Northern Trust at Liberty National.

McIlroy showcased some fine attacking golf by noting down five birdies on his scorecard, but offset those with the same number of bogeys in a round that could have been better but instead had him five shots adrift of Harold Varner III after the morning wave of starters.

More concerning, under the current leaderboard he is not projected to make any progress in the FedEx Cup standings — entering the week he is 26th — with only the top 30 qualifying for the end-of-season Tour Championship.

That being said, it would be astounding if McIlroy missed out on the PGA Tour finale, and he will likely not be massively worried given how many points are on offer this week and at next week’s BMW Championship, the second play-off event.

However, he will be keenly aware that he needs to be heading to East Lake as high in the standings as possible in order to give himself the best chance of becoming the first player to win three FedEx Cups, with players starting the Tour Championship on different scores based on their Order of Merit ranking.

Therefore, a good finish at Liberty National would go a long way to helping him in that regard, and he already has ground to make up in New Jersey.

The World No.12 opened with a birdie, but quickly fell over par with back-to-back bogeys at the second and third, and another birdie at the fifth was cancelled out by a bogey at the par-five sixth.

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Similarly, his next birdie, at the 13th, was undone straight away by a three-putt bogey at the 14th, and even when he hauled himself under par with birdies at the 16th and 17th, he finished on a frustrating note by three-putting the par-four 18th to end his round where he began.

That had him five back of Varner III before the afternoon starters had even taken to the tee, with the American dropping just two shots around seven birdies in an excellent five-under 66, which had him two ahead of Sebastián Muñoz, Cameron Champ, Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay at the halfway stage of the day.

Varner III (31) is bidding for his first PGA Tour win at The Northern Trust and he credited being able to put a terrible attitude from last week’s Wyndham Championship behind him to get back on track.

“I just had a terrible attitude, and having a bad attitude probably makes me more mad than playing bad golf,” Varner explained after his round.

“That’s the only thing you control. You don’t really control what you’re going to shoot or where your golf ball is going to end up, but you control how you approach each shot.

“You’re not going to be a child. You can cover it up a little bit, but I just know how it felt, how I was thinking after it happened, and it’s not healthy with all the mental illness stuff.”

The Republic of Ireland’s Seamus Power, 73rd in the FedEx Cup rankings and needs to break into the top 70 to play in next week’s BMW Championship, opened with a one-under 70.

Elsewhere, Michael Hoey pulled himself into contention to record his first top-10 finish since May after a fine third round at the Sydbank Esbjerg Challenge in Denmark.

The Galgorm man mixed six birdies with two bogeys in a four-under 67 at Esbjerg Golfklub to reach one under for the week, which has him in a tie for 22nd.

Hoey is only two shots off a top-10 spot, with Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson holding a one-shot lead over France’s Julien Brun going into the final round.


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