Rose and Mcilroy off to good starts at Northern Trust
9 August 2019
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose enjoyed strong starts to The Northern Trust as Tiger Woods faced an early exit after the opening day of the FedExCup Play-Offs.
Troy Merritt matched the course-record of 62 to claim the outright lead on nine under par, one clear of two-time champion Dustin Johnson, while McIlroy and Rose both fired 65s as two-thirds of the field managed to break the par of 71.
But Woods was not among them after he struggled to a 75 and ended the day with only two players below him on the leaderboard, and the Masters champion will need something special on Friday to avoid missing the cut for the third time in his five starts since his Augusta National triumph.
Merritt took advantage of the ideal scoring conditions early in the day and birdied four of his first five holes before picking up five more shots while keeping a clean card to claim a one-stroke lead over Johnson, whose two previous victories in the tournament came at different venues.
Johnson did his scoring in two separate bursts as he made four birdies in five holes from the 13th – his fourth – and he then reeled off four in a row on the front nine to climb to eight under and one ahead of Kevin Kisner and Jon Rahm, who were also bogey-free for the first day.
McIlroy dropped a shot at his opening hole but bounced back with five birdies and a superb eagle at the 13th, while Rose joined the group at six under late in the day after battling through the breezier, afternoon conditions.
Defending FedExCup champion Rose was not on top of his game but managed to limit the mistakes before producing an excellent finish with four birdies over the final six holes including a 30-foot putt for a three at the tricky 15th.
Former Masters champion Danny Willett continued his late-season resurgence as he fired a classy five-under 66, and the Englishman will need more of the same over the next three days to climb the 40 places he needs to qualify for next week.
Russell Knox, currently ranked only four places higher than Willett at 106, also made an encouraging start in his bid to extend his PGA Tour season with his 66, while former FedExCup winners Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were one further behind.
World No 1 Brooks Koepka, who outplayed McIlroy on the final day in Memphis to win his first WGC title a fortnight ago, was five shots worse than his playing-partner in New Jersey, while Woods made a succession of errors with his irons and hinted afterwards that he was relieved just to break 80.
Woods made three birdies but littered his card with five bogeys and one double-bogey at the short 14th, where he pulled a nine-iron long and left of the green and had to take a penalty drop as he needed four shots just to find the putting surface.
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