McIlroy loses mojo as Power starts rolling in Mississippi
Matt Wallace. Picture: Getty Images

Matt Wallace. Picture: Getty Images

Rory McIlroy crashed to horror finish in the BMW PGA as Seamus Power made a scorching start in Mississippi.

McIlroy raced to three-under par after five holes at Wentworth before the wheels came off, his confidence evaporated and he slumped to a 76 — his highest score since that opening 79 in The Open.

As Power opened with a brilliant, seven-under 65 to lie just a shot off the lead in the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship, world number two McIlroy imploded alarmingly.

The FedEx Cup champion made five bogeys and just one birdie in a seven-hole stretch from the eighth, then ran up a double-bogey seven after driving out of bounds at the 17th.

After blasting a three-wood into an unplayable lie in the bushes at the 18th, he was forced to go back to the tee and had to make 20 footer for a bogey six.

It added up to a four-over 76 that left him tied 114th, five shots outside the projected cut mark and 11 shots adrift of England's Matt Wallace, whose 65 gave him a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson and Jon Rahm.

On a frustrating day for the Irish, Open champion Shane Lowry saw his five-iron to the 18th come up a yard short in the water, leading to a bogey six and a level par 72 while Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne had 33 putts each in respective rounds of 73 and 80.

"I felt like that was the worst score I could have shot," Lowry told Meridian Media after a luckless day on the greens in his return to action after a four-week break.

"I was a bit anxious going out about how I was going to play and what I was going to shoot, but I felt like I played nicely.

"It could have been 67 or 68 today very easily, but it ended up as 72. That's golf."

I had a poor start to the season last year and you are always trying to claw your way back in. It’s huge in the Fall to get off and running so hopefully I can keep it going
— Seamus Power

Ranked 101st in the Race to Dubai, Dunne has been told his card is safe given the top 119 in the Race to Dubai will be exempt this year.

But he was hugely frustrated by his putting, missing several inside four feet before admitting: "I putted terrible. It’s the worst I've putted - ever.”

He added: "I think I went a season missing one putt inside four feet and I missed five today."

Dunne missed six of seven cuts before carding three sub par rounds en route to tied 27th in the KLM Open last week and while he believes he’s close to regaining some form, he’s not quite sure what’s going wrong.

He birdied his last two holes yesterday to give his supporters something to cheer but he could not produce any explanation for what went wrong.

“It’s going to be a bad week, but my game doesn’t feel that bad,” he told Meridian Media’s Denis Kirwan. “It’s easy to say that when the scores don’t show it. But I have been putting some good rounds together and I have practising much better so hopefully it is just an anomaly for the day. I hope.”

Level par through four holes, he dropped six shots from the fifth to turn in 41, then bogeyed the 12th and 13th and double bogeyed the 15th.

“I missed a two footer for par on the first, missed from even closer on the fifth for par, six I missed a short one for par, seven the same. Three-putted eight for bogey. It wasn’t like I was hitting it that badly. I was probably playing level par, one-over golf through eight and found myself four over. And then I was fighting it and in a bad mood because of it and everything spiralled out of control.”

It’s the worst I’ve putted - ever.
— Paul Dunne

He added: “I don’t think it is that far away, but it is. I don’t have any answers for you.”

As for his card, he said: “I think I am okay for that anyway. I don’t think I need to play again to secure my card. I It is going to 119th this year. We got a projection sent to us and 380 would be the points number and I am already on 414. That’s not on my mind. Trying to get into Turkey [Top 75 available player] is.

“But I have a few big events to come. I played super on Tuesday and hit a few lovely shots last week so I am going to take the positives from them. Who knows, I could shoot eight under and make the cut. If not, I will use it as a round to try and get ready for next week.”

Power is looking for a fast start to the new season after losing his full PGA Tour credentials and he was thrilled to start with four birdies and an eagle in his first six holes at the Country Club of Jackson.

"It's the best start I've ever had," said Power who had just 24 putts, rebounding from two bogeys with a three-under back nine to end the day just one shot behind clubhouse leader Tom Hoge.

"It dawned on me suddenly, 'Holy c**p, six under after six.'

“I am in the 126-50 category this year so everything counts. It is nice to get on the board early because I had a poor start to the season last year and you are always trying to claw your way back in. It's nice any time of year but it huge in the Fall to get off and running so hopefully I can keep it going."

"It is nice to get on the board early because I had a poor start to the season last year and you are always trying to claw your way back in.

"It's nice any time of year but it huge in the Fall to get off and running so hopefully I can keep it going."

He started on the back nine with three successive birdies, then followed a par save at the 13th with an eagle from 40 feet at the 14th.

He bogeyed the 16th and 18th but birdied the third, seventh and ninth to tie for second with Robert Streb and Cameron Percy before play was suspended for the day due to storms.

Asked the key to his round, Power said: "Putting. I putted really nicely today. it was one of those things, it just kind of happened. You are not really expecting to make a two on 10 and I made that. Then I got out of position on 11 and was able to make a birdie.

“Then I made a really good save on 13 and rolled in a long one on 14. It just kind of happened quickly. I was my best start to a tournament I have probably ever had. So that was a nice way to get going.

“The greens are fantastic. You couldn't ask for better putting surfaces. I have always like putting on faster greens and these are really rolling.”

Power has played well in Jackson before.

He was 29th after opening with a 65 in 2017, tied 18th in 2018 and 19th last year.

“This is my fourth year coming here and I have always read the greens really well,” he said. “So it's a good combination and hopefully I can get it going to the weekend and keep it up.

“I shot 65 in the first round the the first year and I see good lines around here.”