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By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 12/06/20 1:29am
Rory McIlroy was clearly not overly-enthused with his first competitive round since The Players as he marked his debut at Colonial Country Club with an “uneventful” 68.
The start to McIlroy’s round was full of promise as he pounded his opening drive over 330 yards down the fairway, knocked a mid-iron to 20 feet and two-putted for birdie, but he added only two more while dropping a shot at the sixth and ended the first day five shots adrift of Justin Rose and Harold Varner III.
McIlroy missed a good chance on the second and did well to hole from 15 feet to scramble a par at the fifth, but he then left a 30-foot birdie putt four feet short on the next green and missed the par attempt before atoning with a towering iron to 15 feet at the par-three eighth and finding the target for birdie.
The world No 1 holed from similar distance at the ninth to give himself plenty of momentum heading into the back nine, but he struggled to give himself many legitimate chances to climb the leaderboard and settled for nine relatively stress-free pars.
“Uneventful,” was McIlroy’s abrupt summary of his performance. “I made three birdies and one bogey. The one bogey on the sixth hole I three-putted from 30 feet, but it was one of those days.
“I put myself in position to shoot a low score, I just didn’t capitalise on how I hit it off the tee. My distance control on my wedges was a little off, and then the putting right there got a little difficult at the end of the day.
“The greens were sort of slow, and they got pretty bumpy at the end. Hopefully we’ll have some better greens in the morning and hopefully I’ll shoot a lower score.”
Regardless of his disjointed display, McIlroy echoed the feelings of the vast majority of the field when asked how it felt to be back in a full-field PGA Tour event, despite the lack of atmosphere with spectators barred for the time being.
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“It was good, it felt good to be back,” he added. “I thought it was going to feel more different than it was. It’s a little strange not having anyone around.
“But, at the same time, we are so concentrated on what we’re doing and trying to shoot good scores and play good golf, so once I got into it, I didn’t feel like it was much different at all.”
McIlroy played alongside the top players directly below him in the world rankings, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka, with the American also firing a 68 while Rahm bogeyed the last to hand in a 69.
“It was a ‘getting-along’ round; nothing to get too excited about, nothing to get disappointed about,” said Koepka. “I felt like it could have very easily been a lot better. But it is what it is, and I’ll go play tomorrow.
“It was kind of eerie the first couple holes, and the first hole all three of us make birdie and there’s no applause, so it’s kind of funny. But at the same time it’s our job. We’re supposed to go out and go play golf, so it doesn’t matter if there’s fans there or not. We’ve got to go out and go do what we’re supposed to do.
“It’ll be nice to get some fresh greens. These greens get chewed up pretty good in the afternoon, and some fresh greens, be able to make a few more putts, and you’ve just got to put the ball in the fairway.”
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