CARMEL – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy seem to be spending a lot of time together lately. That includes the top of a busy leader board at the BMW Championship.
The biggest star in golf and his heir apparent put on a dazzling show Thursday at Crooked Stick, where the gallery caught a glimpse of the best players in the world for the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship.
McIlroy, flawless with his irons, birdied his last two holes for an 8-under 64 and was part of a four-way tie for the lead with Indiana native Bo Van Pelt, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and Graham DeLaet, the Canadian who is quietly becoming the Cinderella of these FedEx Cup playoffs.
Just three days after McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank Championship, he looked just as impressive in the opening round at Crooked Stick.
He hits it great, putts it great and on top of that, he’s just a really nice kid, Woods said in some of his strongest praise ever for another player. The game of golf is in great hands with him, and he’s here to stay.
Woods, who finished two shots behind Monday in Boston, isn’t going away quietly. He made enough birdies to stay in the game, including a 30-foot chip-in on his last hole for a 65.
Fans lined three-deep down the entire 10th hole to see McIlroy and Woods in the same group for the second time in three weeks.
It definitely gives you a little more of a lift, especially coming off a win and maybe being a little flat, McIlroy said. You’re focused from the get-go, and you want to go out and shoot a good number, and I was able to do that today.
Sixty players in the 70-man field were at par or better. Forty players were in the 60s. All but five holes played under par, and the average score was 69.47.
I think we all knew it was there for the taking today, said Justin Rose, who opened with a 67 and was tied for 10th.
Vijay Singh had a chance to join the leaders until he drove into the water on the 18th hole, though he escaped with par and was at 65. Luke Donald was in the group at 66. Phil Mickelson was at 69, worth noting because it looked as though he might quadruple bogey on his last hole. Instead, he made birdie.
His second shot from the fairway on the par-5 ninth sailed toward the corporate tents, and Mickelson feared it was out-of-bounds. He hit a provisional that went onto the driving range, which definitely was out of bounds. Before he could hit again, Mickelson discovered the first one was in play. Mickelson had a clear enough shot at the green, and he hasn’t lost his magic with the short game – his wedge settled 2 feet away for a birdie.
I got lucky, Mickelson said.
LPGA: In Williamsburg, Va., Jiyai Shin weathered a two-hour weather delay and shot a 9-under 62 to take the first-round lead in the LPGA Tour’s Kingsmill Championship. With 33 players still on the course when play was halted by darkness, the 24-year-old South Korean led the field by two.
Dewi Claire Schreefel of the Netherlands used an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole (her 16th) to reach 7 under before play was suspended. Four players were at 6-under 65, and four more were at 66.
Former Fort Wayne resident Amanda Blumenherst shot a 3-over 74.
EUROPEAN: In Hilversum, Netherlands, Graeme Storm of England shot a course record 7-under 63 to lead the KLM Open by two shots after the opening round. Storm birdied three of his closing four holes as he broke the previous record by three shots. Martin Kaymer, Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti also surpassed the previous course record with their 5-under 65s to tie for second place.