Rory McIlroy got off to a sensational start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but admitted he needs to start finishing more tournaments.
The 2018 champion cliniced from the tee and greens, shattering the par-5s at Bay Hill when he opened seven-under 65 to take an early two-shot lead over Americans Beau Hossler, JJ Spaun and Billy Horschel to go.
Having opened 2020 and 2021 with 66 seconds only to shoot over par on each of the last three days, he knows the test will only get tougher.
But he also knows that if he wants to reach his goal and make 2022 a multi-win year, he needs to start completing tournaments on Sundays.
“I think with the experience I’ve got and the tournaments I’ve completed in my career, I think if you’re two ahead with two to play, I think you should win, yes,” McIlroy said of his loss against Viktor Hovland at the Dubai Desert Classic in January, just eight weeks after Collin Morikawa’s fine play and his own late mistakes saw him lose the DP World Tour Championship and rip his shirt in frustration.
“I would say 25 percent of the time someone just played better than you and you gave it your all. But I would say in three quarters of the cases there is a self-fault behind it somewhere.”
While Pádraig Harrington chiseled out a one-over-73, McIlroy was thrilled to open at 65 in a major-style setup as the field averaged over par.
“I played the par fives especially well and that was the bulk of the scoring,” said McIlroy, who went through one after two but made three of his six birdies on the par five and added an eagle from 41 feet in the 16th. (his seventh).
“I’ve been saying that all along. You can play with yourself here and still get a good result I think if you just be disciplined and hit the birdies where you should.”
Bay Hill’s firm greens and deep rough make it a Major-style test, and that suited Graeme McDowell, 42, who took advantage of a sponsor’s invitation to make six birdies in a four-under 68 to challenge himself sharing fifth place with Sunjae Im, Will Zalatoris, and Adam Scott.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Test here,” said two-time runner-up McDowell, whose waiver from the PGA Tour expires this season. “I think it appeals to the major-style player because of the discipline and patience required. Although the golf course has five or six really good odds, there are 12 or 13 pretty tough holes out there.”
McDowell, ranked 399th in the world, believes he’s playing better than his results suggest and admits his decision not to compete for the 2023 Ryder Cup captaincy meant his chance could cost to ever do the job.
“But somehow I have to put my own individual career first, I feel,” he said. “I’m really keen to get back to playing consistently well at a high level rather than diverting my attention and taking over the Ryder Cup captaincy.
“Maybe part of me would say I’m not good enough to make the team. To be able to compete at a high level, I have to have that belief. If I take on the captaincy then that belief isn’t there… I would love to be captain one day but if I don’t take it on this time I’m aware that I could miss it which would be disappointing.
“I think there are too many great guys. There are too many great players. Seven or eight guys will be vying for the next five or six. Someone is missing.”
On the DP World Tour, Paul Dunne, Niall Kearney, Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin opened with an under 70 and shared 40th place, six strokes behind England’s Daniel Gavins at the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga in Nairobi, with Jonathan Caldwell after a 76 placed 124th.
At the Challenge Tour’s weather-affected Mangaung Open, South Africa’s Luke Jerling and Spain’s Alejandro Del Rey and Scott Fernandez shot nine-under 63 in Bloemfontein to take a two-shot lead.
Kinsale’s John Murphy was 32nd after a 69, Tramore’s Robin Dawson was 60th after a 70 alongside Tom McKibbin, who was under two at Schoeman Park when Richard O’Donovan equalized at Bloemfontein before the game was interrupted.
In amateur golf, Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley may become the fifth Irish player to win the prestigious Copa del Rey as he was the last Irishman standing at Sherry Golf Jerez in Cadiz.
He beat Germany’s Constantin Mons 2-up and meets Spain’s Jaime Montojo Fernandez for a place in the last 16.
Kirkistown Castle’s Beth Coulter lost 1-1 to Spain’s Claudia Lara in the Copa de la Reina at Seville’s Real Club Pineda.
But U16 girls international Marina Joyce Moreno beat England’s Patience Rhodes on the 19th and now meets Denmark’s Melissa Johansen in the last 32.
Bay Hill Invitation,
Live, Sky Sports, 7pm
https://www.independent.ie/sport/golf/i-played-the-par-fives-particularly-well-rory-mcilroy-puts-boot-down-with-opening-65-at-bay-hill-41409615.html “I played the par five particularly well” – Rory McIlroy puts down the boot with opening 65 at Bay Hill