McIl­roy gets strong start to 2017 with open­ing 67 at SA Open

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Rory McIl­roy made an im­pres­sive start to 2017 with a new set of clubs, shoot­ing a 5-un­der 67 yes­ter­day in the first round of the SA Open to put him­self a stroke off the lead.

Mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance at the tour­na­ment since 2008, McIl­roy rolled in seven birdies — in­clud­ing four straight from Nos. 14-17 af­ter start­ing at the 10th at Glen­dower Golf Club.

South African play­ers Trevor Fisher Jr. and Keith Horne shared the lead af­ter rounds of 66.

With Nike an­nounc­ing last year it would no longer be mak­ing golf clubs and balls, the sec­ond-ranked McIl­roy has been test­ing out new woods, irons and a put­ter from other man­u­fac­tur­ers and said his new bag "is work­ing pretty well."

"I’m sure as I get ac­cus­tomed to them — I mean, it’s nice to play my first com­pet­i­tive round and play like this — I’ll get even more di­aled in, and chop and change a lit­tle bit," McIl­roy said.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man is the stand­out player in Jo­han­nes­burg this week, mak­ing an ear­lier-than-usual start to his golf­ing year as a fa­vor to Ernie Els, the South African great and the host of the SA Open. The gal­leries were drawn to McIl­roy de­spite his early tee time of 7:10 a.m. lo­cal time and he re­sponded with an ad­ven­tur­ous round that in­cluded a 392-yard drive on the first hole, draw­ing gasps from spec­ta­tors.

A 20-foot putt on No. 17 com­pleted his four-hole run of birdies be­fore McIl­roy rolled in an 8-footer on No. 2 to move to 5 un­der. Poor ap­proach shots led to bo­geys on the fourth and fifth, but he replied with a tee shot on the par-3 sixth that stopped on the slope in the mid­dle of the green and rolled back down to two feet, for a tap-in birdie.

He was in the rough on his fi­nal three holes but scram­bled to par Nos. 7 and 9 and made a birdie on No. 8.

"I gave my­self chances, felt I missed a few but I played well," McIl­roy said. "It was a bit ad­ven­tur­ous on the back nine, scram­bled a bit and did my bit to sal­vage a few holes."

South African play­ers have won 13 of the last 19 edi­tions of the SA Open, and five of the top seven on Thurs­day were home play­ers.

Fisher Jr., also start­ing at No. 10 in the morn­ing, made seven birdies in eight holes from the 12th to the first and parred his way home.

Horne joined his com­pa­triot in the lead with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 com­ing home, con­tin­u­ing his good form from the Al­fred Dun­hill Cham­pi­onship in De­cem­ber where he fin­ished tied for 11th.

Three more South Africans, Thomas Aiken, Dean Burmester and Jbe Kruger, were tied with McIl­roy af­ter 67s, along with Euro­pean Tour rookie Jor­dan Smith of Eng­land.

Els and de­fend­ing cham­pion Bran­don Stone started with 74s. Six-time ma­jor cham­pion Nick Faldo was at 2-un­der 70.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.