Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

McIlroy shares the lead

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VILLAGE, Colo. - Rory McIlroy felt anything under par was a good score Thursday at Cherry Hills, even if he had reason to expect much better.

McIlroy ran out of par saves late in the opening round at the BMW Championship and had to settle for a 3-under 67, still enough for the world's No. 1 player to share the lead with Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland.

Cherry Hills, one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour when factoring in the mile-high air, held up just fine.

"It's tricky. It really is," McIlroy said. "The altitude, we've had a couple of days to adjust to that. It's fine. But these greens have gotten so much firmer over the last 24 hours. I think that's what is giving the guys just a little trouble out there."

U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia were among those at 68, while Justin Rose wasted a fast start and was at 69. Phil Mickelson, who won the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills in 1990, opened with a 70.

"It reminds me of Augusta in the early '90s, where the course played very short but the greens were the defense," Mickelson said. "And the greens were very fast, and very firm, and it was very difficult to get the ball close."

McIlroy ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn to reach 5-under par. He appeared to escape trouble with one of his best par saves of the year, hitting a lofted pitch from the side of a mound that landed just on the green and rode the slope to about eight feet. He avoided a three-putt on the next hole by making a seven-foot par save.

But that was the end of that.

McIlroy failed to save par from the bunker on the next two holes.

Spieth also ran into his share of trouble, though he countered with six birdies and figured out the nasty combination of soft turf in front of the greens and putting surfaces that felt as if they had been mixed with cement.

He blasted a driver through the fairway on the 382-yard seventh hole because it offered the best angle into the green. The trick was playing the wedge. It came out low and running, something one would expect to see more in links golf, and it had just enough speed to crawl onto the green and settle a few feet away.

"Today, I had a good short game," Spieth said with a smile, a strong comment from a guy with one of the best short games in golf.

Associated Press
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