The Press

Caddie calls out meek McIlroy

Kiwis struggle at Birkdale


Rory McIlroy was standing on the sixth tee and already doubting his chances of making the cut at the British Open when his negative thoughts were interrupte­d by his caddie, JP Fitzgerald.

‘‘He reminded me who I was, basically,’' said McIlroy, a fourtime major champion, after the first round at Royal Birkdale in north-west England yesterday.

‘‘He said to me, ‘you’re Rory McIlroy, what the f... are you doing?’’’

Initially, McIlroy’s response was passive, ‘‘whatever,’' he replied as he mentally grappled with shooting bogeys on four of the first five holes. But then came the recovery.

McIlroy got up and down from a front bunker for par at the short 7th hole, rolled in a 15-foot putt for par at the 8th hole having pushed his drive into the rough, and birdied four of his last eight holes to shoot a 1-over 71.

One of the biggest roars of the day came at No 18 when McIlroy made a 15-footer for birdie, Tough scoring conditions at the year’s third golf major took their toll on the two New Zealanders in the British Open field.

Michael Hendry carded a threeover 73 to be tied 90th while Ryan Fox posted a four-over 74 as wind dominated the first round at Royal Birkdale.

Hendry, 37, posted five bogeys and two birdies as he battled early pumping his fist when the ball fell into the cup.

‘‘I still feel I’m in the golf tournament,’' said McIlroy, who was six shots off the lead held by American players Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar, who shot five-under-par 65s.

McIlroy has missed the cut at three of his last four tournament­s the US Open, the Irish Open and the Scottish Open - and said he was ‘‘nervous ... anxious, timid’' as he teed off alongside Dustin Johnson and Charl Schwartzel in one of the to find the greens.

After five straight pars, Fox, now inside the top-100 of the world rankings, bogeyed the sixth and seventh holes to drop back. He dropped another shot with a bogey at the 10th, followed by five straight pars. His only birdie came at the par-five 17th, sandwiched between two more bogeys at the 16th and 18th holes. He is tied 106th. marquee groups.

It made a mockery of his pretournam­ent rallying call on Wednesday, when he reacted to being told his odds for victory were 20-1 by saying: ‘‘It’s a good week to back me.’'

Even those odds - unusually long for McIlroy - looked way too short when the world No 4 pulled his tee shot at the first, had a flier to the right of the green with his second shot, sent his chip shot through the green with his third, and two-putted for bogey.

He bogeyed Nos 3-5 - his par putt at the fourth hole lipped out from four feet - and said he was thinking: ‘‘Geez, here we go again.’'

Fitzgerald’s words kept McIlroy positive and the Northern Irishman was happy that he stayed patient. Just last week at the Scottish Open, McIlroy said his attitude to golf and life in general had improved since getting married in April.

‘‘I didn’t get angry out there at all,’' he said. ‘‘I didn’t let my head drop too much.’'

Ofd the leaders, Spieth had a bogey-free round, though it required great bunker shots even by his standards to keep it that way. Koepka’s round was especially impressive considerin­g he has picked up his clubs only twice since winning the US Open last month.

Kuchar started hot, with four birdies in his first six holes and was five-under at the turn, before putting together nine straight pars on the back nine.

Paul Casey and Schwartzel were one behind the three Americans with their 66s, four-under, while six players shot 67.

 ?? PHOTO: REUTERS ?? Dozens of fans, and caddie JP Fitzgerald, left, get a close-up look at world No 4 Rory McIlroy as he plays from the rough on the eighth hole.
PHOTO: REUTERS Dozens of fans, and caddie JP Fitzgerald, left, get a close-up look at world No 4 Rory McIlroy as he plays from the rough on the eighth hole.

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