- The Barclays
McIlroy: Missing the weekend is not an option
It has been rare of late to see Rory McIlroy's name anywhere but the top of the leaderboard, but the reigning Open and US PGA champion was far from his impressive recent standards as he carded a 74 at The Barclays on Thursday.
After a rather tumultuous 10-day period following his US PGA win at Valhalla, McIlroy's performance at the first of four FedEx Cup play-off events on the PGA Tour perhaps should not have been a surprise.
"It's more to do with just not putting the adequate time into my game over the past week for obvious reasons," McIlroy said after shooting three-over par at Ridgewood Country Club. "I think that's really been it, so I'm going to grab a bit to eat here and go to the range this afternoon and work on a few things and really just catch up on some practice that I probably missed out on over the past week.
"Missing the weekend is not an option."
Casey the pick of the Brits
- Paul Casey topped Britain's representation at The Barclays after the Englishman continued to make his case for a Ryder Cup wildcard pick with a five-under 66 to end round one in an eight-way tie for second.
- Casey rolled home birdies at three, six, 11, 14 and 15 in his bogey-free round.
- "I think today was probably a product of really not having really any expectations and just going out there and smashing it around and having fun," Casey said.
- Scot Russell Knox is one back at at four-under, while Justin Rose is very much in contention after a three-under 68 that featured five birdies and two bogeys.
- "I had a lot of four- or five-foot putts which kept the momentum going," said Rose. "I made all of them and I made them in the middle. That was something I was struggling with lately, the [US] PGA anyway, so that's good.
- "My ball striking is normally there or thereabouts, I actually didn't hit many fairways today. Just that finish was a little bit suspect, other than that I was pretty happy with the way I scored."
- Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell are also under par following rounds of 70, while Luke Donald carded an even-par 71 with three birdies and three bogeys.
- Fellow Englishmen Ian Poulter and Brian Davis have work to do after rounds of 72 and 73 respectively.
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McIlroy trails leaders Bo van Pelt by nine strokes. The 74 was McIlroy's highest score over par since he shot 78 during the second round of the Scottish Open in July.
Since then, McIlroy had gone 14 consecutive rounds under par, including consecutive victories at the Open, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA. During that stretch, McIlroy had just one round in the 70s. And his last over par on the PGA Tour was during the final round of the US Open.
After winning the his fourth major, McIlroy headed to New York for a few days of celebration before returning to Europe where he visited friends and family and attended the Manchester United opener on Saturday. He returned to New York on Sunday and had corporate obligations with Nike on Monday.
"It was inevitable, after such a great few weeks - I wanted to enjoy it for a week," McIlroy said. "I came here Monday morning, hit some balls, practiced pretty well. But I guess taking a week off and sort of getting back into it this week, I probably just needed to give myself a bit more time. But I wasn't going to do that. I was enjoying myself."
His round included a 40 over his opening nine holes - the eighth time in 2014 that McIlroy has shot at least 40 or more for nine holes in which he failed to make a birdie. For the day, McIlroy hit just seven of 14 fairways and took 32 putts and was outside of the top 100 among 123 players competing.
McIlroy, who is ranked No.1 in the world and is also first in FedEx Cup points, has no worries about advancing to next week's Deutsche Bank Championship and is a virtual lock to make the 30-player Tour Championship in three weeks.
His goal, however, is to remain in the top five so he can control his fate in Atlanta.
"After you win the [Open] and the [US] PGA, I think it's going to be hard to get up mentally for any more golf," said Phil Mickelson, who shot an opening-round 71. "That made the year right there. Anything after that is irrelevant I think and I think it's difficult for him to get up.
"Now he's such a good player, he'll end up coming back tomorrow and I would anticipate a low round. But there's nothing he can do that is going to equal what he's already done this year."