When you throw a shot late on the top nine to go out in 31 it is worst part of your round, it’s probably been a pretty good day. Rory McIlroy’s only flaw in round 1 of the DP World Tour Championship on the European Tour was a bogey on the ninth, as he needed par for a 30 on the front, but he got it back early on the second nine and cruised home with a 7. -under 65 to lead a group of three golfers with two in Dubai.
It started with a downpour for McIlroy on Thursday. As a two-time winner of this event, he played the first two holes in six strokes and was 3 under standing on the third tee box. His eagle on the par-5 second hole included a bombed second shot from 267 yards to 13 feet and he never really looked back the rest of the day.
“Honestly, all I was trying to do was get it in the front pile,” McIlroy said. “I did not think I had enough stick to get it over with, but I absolutely rinsed it. It was … [the] right edge of the green I aimed at, trying to hit a hard draw in there to at least try to get it to the lip of the bunker so I had a bunker shot uphill. As soon as I hit it, I felt like I might actually have a chance to cover it. So it was nice to get a hole in the putt and of course a good way to start. ”
McIlroy followed his 31 with a 34 on his back that included a neat chip in the end, leading to a birdie of the 18th and 65. He finished in second place in strokes obtained from the tee, which is usually the neighborhood where he lives, and only player who was better with the driver on Thursday was actually his playing partner, Dean Burmester.
The encouraging thing about McIlroy, though, is that he also did everything else well and almost got a whole punch in every category he got. Even in his victory at the CJ Cup, McIlroy was not good overall with his iron play, especially compared to PGA Tour winners. That was not the case Thursday when he finished as number 12 in the field in that category.
After his round on Thursday in Dubai, McIlroy said he is trying to play with more emotion and more creativity. The evidence is in the massive 3-tree he hit by the other leading the eagle.
“I’ve always been a very visual player,” McIlroy said. “I always see shots. I do not know how much the shooter was out there today, but people probably see me playing shots again. Maybe not quite as much as Bubba Watson, but still it’s the way I’ve always played golf and seen the game , and I’ll just go back to seeing it like that again. “
The best McIlroy can do this week in the Race to Dubai (European Tour season-long race) is a fourth-place finish after Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel and Jon Rahm (who are not playing this week), even though he wins the tournament. Still, it would be to add this to his two other victories this year at the Wells Fargo Championship and CJ Cup at the Summit a few weeks ago – and steal a year with three victories in a while where he has not had his best things – significant to him. It would also bring a lot of excitement into 2022, where the focus will again be on how he plays at major championships.
“I suppose I talked a little bit about this, maybe after CJ,” McIlroy said. “I think sometimes when you are not playing your best I may not set my standards high enough sometimes. They are high but getting into a major this year is not good enough for me. I have done that far better than before and I know I can again, especially with the way I play and feel like I’ve got my golf game back.So I’m excited about the four events next year and excited about the way forward, because I really feel like I’m on the right track. “
All that remains to be seen, but it’s clear McIlroy had his best “I’m Rory McIlroy, four times major winner, and there’s nothing you can do about it” thing Thursday on the way to 65. If he continues, it is the type of course where he could sail for a third title in the last 10 years on this golf course. At least the other 52 golfers in this field after the well-rounded show he put on Thursday now have a big problem at the top of the rankings.
Let’s take a look at more from round 1:
Collin Morikawa shot 4-under 68 in his bid to become the first American to win the season-long Race to Dubai. He is currently T5 on the leaderboard, which is probably more than enough to lock in the title, especially since playing partner Billy Horschel shot 74 and is T45. Horschel is the best hope for any of the candidates to catch Morikawa in Race to Dubai, but he should at least get into the top 10 over the last three rounds.
Tapio Pulkkanen is one of the three number two on the board together with Joachim B. Hansen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Pulkkanen, 31, is the No. 246 player in the world, and his best European Tour show ever came earlier this year at the D + D Real Czech Masters, where he finished T2. He gave an understated but pleasant quote after his round. “I think I have to keep doing the same thing as today and see what the big boys do,” said Pulkkanen, who is paired with Mcilroy on Friday afternoon.
Hansen tries to cash in again on a warm hand. He won last week’s AVIV Dubai Championship and led the field in strokes achieved on access shots on Thursday to 3.64, which was at least one stroke better than all players in the field except one.