GOLF: Rory McIlroy off to poor start at Memorial Tournament

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is two over par after the first round of the Memorial Tournament.

The Holywood player was not at his best yesterday as he hit a disappointing 74 during his first round.

His score leaves him nine shots behind early leaders Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann and Hideki Matsuyama who all finished on seven under.

And former Masters champion Danny Willett carded his lowest round of the season as he looks to halt his alarming slide down the world rankings in the Italian Open.

Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but has since plummeted to 462nd after struggling with injuries and a loss of form.

The 30-year-old was forced to withdraw from his scheduled season opener in Abu Dhabi with a shoulder problem and has missed the cut in all but one of nine starts in 2018.

But on a day of low scoring at Gardagolf in Brescia, Willett compiled a bogey-free, six-under-par 65 to lie just two shots off the lead shared by fellow Englishmen Robert Rock and Laurie Canter and South Africa’s Richard Sterne.

“It’s been a while,” Willett said after only his second round in the 60s this season. “We played really well and got the ball in play a lot which you have to do around here.”

Willett teamed up with three of Italy’s Paralympic golfers in the pre-tournament pro-am and added: “It was one of those days that just puts life into perspective when you see what this games does to bring people together.

“We golfers don’t know how lucky we are sometimes and to have the experience I did in the pro-am was one of those days where you step back, realise how fortunate we are.”

Rock was one over par after three holes, but carded nothing worse than a three in the next nine in his 63.

“I did well to bogey the second after two terrible tee shots, my provisional was in the water as well, but got on a run after that.”