McIlroy leaves himself tall task at Baltusrol

Sky Sports began its coverage with talk of Rory McIlroy, then signed off with more chat about the world No 4 and his chances of a comeback after posting a four over 74 in the opening round of the US PGA.

After mentioning the possibility of heavy overnight rain changing the course, presenter David Livingstone said: “So it’s wide open, big chance maybe for Rory to get back in it.,,. though that all remains to be seen.”

While one of Sky’s chief analysts, Colin Montgomerie, insisted it was his long game that put his putter undue pressure, McIlroy’s round leaves him three strokes outside the projected cut.

In other words, he may need a 68 at worst just to stick around for another two rounds.

How Baltrustrol’s greens roll in the afternoon may decide McIlroy’s fate and considering they contain some poa annua, it could be a bumpy afternoon for the Co Down man.

“There just wasn’t a lot of momentum out there,” said McIlroy, who got frustrated early on the greens, then pushed a made more mistakes.

“I’m happy with my game from tee to green – I’m driving the ball as well as I ever have, and my iron play feels good. But when I get on the greens, it’s a different story.”

Montgomerie blamed a series of pulled shots for McIlroy bad day rather than the putter, which failed to register even one birdie as he finished the day nine behind Jimmy Walker, seven behind Henrik Stenson and six adrift of Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, to name just a few of the 119 players ahead of him.

Montgomerie said: "I think the ball was going left Everything was going left and yes, he was missing the putts because he was under pressure with having to hole the putts and that's why they weren't going in."

After taking 35 putts, he lost nearly four shots to the field on the greens (-3.952). In other words, it can’ t get much worse.

"I'm struggling with the pace," he said. "That's the thing that sort of surprised me all week actually. They look much quicker than they are.

"I think there was maybe at least two or three times today when I had putts within 12 feet, thinking they are downhill and going to be pretty quick, and I left them short.

"So I just need to be a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more free-flowing with my stroke. Because when I did hit a couple by, I was able to hole the ones coming back.

"It’s good on the putting green,” he said, “it’s just a matter of getting it from the putting green onto the course. It’s more of a mental thing, as well. I just need to be more assertive and maybe not as tentative.”

While Dustin Johnson crashed to a 77, Jason Day battled to a 68 and Henrik Stenson a 67 while Jordan Spieth, who did not play well either, birdied the 16th and 18th to scramble a 70.

Pádraig Harrington said the greens reminded him of Stackstown’s, which meant they were slopey and well populated by pop annoy.

That Harrington’s one over 71 for a share of 55th was the best of the Irish said it all about their day.

Shane Lowry rescued his round somewhat with a birdie at the last for a two over 72 that leaves him tied 81st and in with a good chance of making the weekend.

If the Offaly man wants to play in the Ryder Cup this year he needs to start showing his US Open form again soon.

As for Graeme McDowell, his experience may be needed by Darren Clarke at Hazeltine but a 74 that left him alongside the Ryder Cup skipper and McIlroy was not what he was looking for.

On form, McDowell would be a likely wildcard but he has missed more cuts this year than he has in a decade and while he can spark at any moment, time is running out.

  • T55-Padraig Harrington +1 1805hrs 71
  • T81-Shane Lowry+2 1300hrs 72
  • T120-Darren Clarke+4 1745hrs 74
  • T120-Rory McIlroy+4 1845hrs 74
  • T120-Graeme McDowell+4 1340hrs  74