Rory McIlroy could not have picked a better day to follow an 78 with a 77 to prop up the field in an event where he is the defending champion.
Perhaps the world has grown tired of the endless analysis of the Co Down man’s game, which has been on the wane since January, but a 59 by Jim Furyk and another eye-catching, post round penalty for Tiger Woods put paid to any temptation to dwell for long on the world No 4’s on-going struggles.
On the face of it, the scores woud suggest that McIlroy threw in the towel after 10 holes of the first round and simply plans on going through the motions for the next two days. Who knows.
He’s certainly not renowned as a fighter in the mould of Furyk, who became the sixth player to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour and the first to do it with a bogey on his card as he joined Brandt Snedeker the halfway lead in the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, near Chicago.
Woods is also a fighter, though in this case he fought against the imposition of a two-stroke penalty after his round after being caught on film by the a crew from PGA Tour Entertainment, not an armchair referee. His 70 became a 72, but not after some head-shaking.
“Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty because he violated Rule 18-2a after his ball moved as he attempted to remove some loose impediments before hitting his third shot at the 363-yard par 4,” the PGA Tour’s Helen Ross wrote.
Rules official Slugger White was quoted as saying: “”He knew there was movement there, but it’s like very was adamant that it oscillated, it stayed there… But this video was at the site, and the ball did, in fact, move.”
According to PGATour.com: “White characterized Woods’ mood at first as ‘disbelieving.’ Woods signed his scorecard but White had him look at the videotape before he turned it in. ‘It’s pretty clear that the ball did move,’ White said.”
Given the penalty Woods was handed in the Masters for playing from a wrong place - the committee waived disqualification - this latest incident will run and run, ad nauseum.
Furyk will also get his share of air time but in this case, it will be deserved praise for a sensational, 12 unde par round featuring an eagle two, 11 birdies and one bogey.
It was the first 59 on the PGA TOUR since Stuart Appleby posted one in the final round of The Greenbrier Classic in 2010.
The others with a 59 were Al Geiberger in the 1977 Memphis Classic; Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational; David Duval in the 1999 Bob Hope Classic; and Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic.
“There’s not much I could have improved on today,” Furyk said after hitting a 103-yard gap wedge inside three feet at the ninth before nailing the historic putt.
He beat McIlroy by 18 shots yesterday.
The 24 year old Ulsterman looks like a player hoping for his holidays rather than a run of events in Asia following a season of false dawns.
A second place finish in San Antonio heralded a bad Masters, where he shot a season high 79 in the third round.
Eighth at the Players, he then struggled through the rest of the summer, confessing after rounds of 79 and 75 at the Open that he was playing brain dead shots.
Even when he finished eighth in the US PGA, he did not seem happy afterwards, giving the impression tha the felt he was robbed of a run at the title by a somewhat unfortunate triple bogey seven at his fifth hole.
Since then it’s been lacklustre fare in the FedEx Cup play-offs. A share of 19th in The Barclays, followed by 47th at the Deutsche Bank in Boston.
Now he’s paddy last in Chicago and has no chance of the top seven finish he needs to make the Tour Championship.
Graeme McDowell needs to finish fifth but a closing double bogey seven for a two over 73 that left him tied 35th on one over has dented his chances a little.
McIlroy must now regroup and try to finish his US season respectably, if only for his sponsors Nike and his fans.
Famed for his ability to bounce back, his torrid season has been a combination of many factors - a natural low after the huge high of 2012, a change of ball and clubs and no shortage of off-course headaches, set to lead to an official breakup with his management company and the formation of his own.
He only has to look to Woods and Furyk for examples of how you can come back from bitter disappointments. Woods hasn’t won a major since 2008. As for Furyk, he lost the US PGA to Jason Dufner, the 2012 US Open to Webb Simpson and the 2012 Bridgestone Invitational to Adam Scot. He also lost out on a Presidents Cup place to Jordan Spieth last week.
McIlroy could look to both Woods and Furyk for some inspiration. Or look in the mirror for the player who defined bounce-back in 2011 with the US Open victory just weeks after the Masters meltdown.
According to Derek Lawrenson, reporting for the Daily Mail from Chicago:
‘Given the amount of quality shots I hit it’s hard to believe I finished with that score,’ said the 24 year old, but 34 putts will do that for you every time…. McIlroy talked in the build-up about keeping costly double bogeys off his card, but there was another here plus a triple bogey for good measure to go with the eight he’d mustered in the opening two FedEx Cup play-off events.
The triple came about after he needed five blows to move the ball 10 yards from a greenside bunker to the hole. Needing a top seven finish here to be part of the elite 30 man field who will contest the final FedEx event in Atlanta next week, he conceded: ’It’s an uphill task now, to say the least.’
In the Daily Telegraph, he told James Corrigan of the rest of the season:
“I can get my head sharp, get refreshed and get ready for the last stint of the season,” McIlroy said. “I can recharge my batteries.”