McIlroy inspired by Tiger as star shoots 66 to earn share of Arnold Palmer lead

By Sports Desk March 04, 2021

Rory McIlroy channelled Tiger Woods in the opening round as the former world number one impressed on his way to a share of the one-stroke lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy's birdie blitz saw the four-time major champion card a near-flawless six-under-par 66 in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

Winner of the PGA Tour event in 2018, McIlroy holed seven birdies – including five in a row on the back nine – to lift the Northern Irishman to the top of the leaderboard alongside Canada's Corey Conners.

McIlroy's birdie run from the second to the sixth hole tied the second-longest streak of his career in a round on the PGA Tour, having also managed the feat twice in 2015 (Wells Fargo Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational).

Reflecting on his bright start at Bay Hill, McIlroy said he was inspired by 15-time major winner and American superstar Woods – who has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on eight occasions throughout his illustrious career.

Woods is currently recovering after undergoing surgery following a near-fatal single-vehicle crash last week.

"Obviously a 66 is a great way to start the tournament," said McIlroy, who is without a win since 2019. "I feel like you don't have to do anything special to shoot a good score here. You can be really conservative off the tees if you want to be, so there are a bunch of irons that you can hit off tees.

"I think the toughest thing about this course is the par-threes and I played them in three under today, so that was a bonus. But I've watched Tiger enough here over the years and the way he played this course was, he played it very conservatively, he took care of the par-fives, and that was usually good enough to get the job done. So I've taken a little bit of a leaf out of his book."

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is a shot off the pace following his five-under-par 67, while Jason Kokrak, Byeong Hun An and Sebastian Munoz are a stroke further back.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth – eyeing his first victory since 2017 – ended the first round in a tie for 15th and four shots behind the leading pair.

Tyrrell Hatton's title defence got off to a forgettable start after shooting a first-round 77 to be five over the card heading into Friday's second round.

Related items

  • Belgium have 'unbelievable' desire to win Euro 2020 ahead of clash v Ronaldo's Portugal – Alderweireld Belgium have 'unbelievable' desire to win Euro 2020 ahead of clash v Ronaldo's Portugal – Alderweireld

    Toby Alderweireld said star-studded Belgium have an "unbelievable" desire to win Euro 2020 as they prepare to face defending champions Portugal in the round of 16.

    Belgium and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal will go head-to-head in Seville for a place in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

    Number one in the world rankings, Belgium have never won a major tournament, having finished runners-up at the European Championship in 1980, while the Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup.

    Belgium have reached the knockout stages in each of their last five appearances at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), progressing to the semi-final in their previous one at Russia 2018. Their defeat to eventual winners France three years ago is the only one of their last 10 games at major tournaments that they have failed to win (W9).

    Boasting a golden generation, including Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Youri Tielemans and Thibaut Courtois, veteran defender Alderweireld is bullish about Belgium's chances.

    "I want to see it differently," Alderweireld replied when asked if Portugal have an advantage given their 2016 success. "I can't talk about how they feel or how they think, the only thing I can say is that we are very hungry.

    "The desire is unbelievable with us to achieve big things for our country and for this team. So we will do everything in our powers to beat them."

    On whether this Belgium generation can be the one to deliver a trophy, Tottenham's Alderweireld said: "We will do everything in our powers to become that generation. I think we have already shown that we can beat any team if we have a good day.

    "But we know it is going to be a tough opponent, but we believe in our ideas and in our quality."

    Belgium will come up against superstar Ronaldo, who equalled Ali Daei for the most international goals in men's football with his 109th following a two-goal haul in Portugal's 2-2 draw against France.

    But Alderweireld and Belgium are wary of more than just Ronaldo, the 32-year-old adding: "I think they are a very difficult team to beat. They have a lot of quality, the team is very compact, they know how to play big games in big tournaments.

    "A lot of experience as well, so I think we have to be top to beat them. Of course everyone talks about Cristiano Ronaldo, we know he is one of the best in the world. But not only him, I think they have a lot of quality around him as well who create chances for him, So again we have to be top to beat them."

    Belgium have only failed to score in two of their last 58 games under head coach Roberto Martinez, averaging exactly three goals per game in this stretch of fixtures (174 in total).

    The two games they have been shut out came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against France (0-1), and in their most recent meeting with Portugal – a 0-0 draw in June 2018.

    Belgium's victory over Finland last time out marked their ninth win at the World Cup and Euros combined under Martinez, with the Spaniard now holding the outright managerial record for major tournament wins with the Red Devils.

  • Salas leads Women's PGA Championship Salas leads Women's PGA Championship

    Lizette Salas set the tone in the first round of the Women's PGA Championship, posting a five-under-under-67 for the lead.

    Salas earned a one-stroke lead after missing only two fairways on the Highlands Course at Atlanta Athletic Club in Georgia on Thursday.

    In a flawless round, Salas – without a LPGA Tour title since 2014 and seeking a maiden major trophy – holed five birdies to end the day ahead of Charley Hull.

    "It was definitely not easy," the 31-year-old American said about the conditions. "We started with pretty wet conditions this morning, but the greens are rolling extremely pure.

    "I had a really good warm-up. I was really confident coming into this week, and I think my game really suits this golf course and kept it boring."

    Jeongeun Lee6, Austin Ernst, Jessica Korda, Alena Sharp, Xiyu Lin, Yealimi Noh and Dani Holmqvist are two shots off the pace.

    Three-time PGA Championship winner Inbee Park shot a 71 to be tied for 23rd, while defending champion Kim Sei-young endured a forgettable four-over-par 76.

  • Hickok, Kodaira upstage star-studded field to share lead as DeChambeau and Koepka shoot 69s Hickok, Kodaira upstage star-studded field to share lead as DeChambeau and Koepka shoot 69s

    Kramer Hickok and Satoshi Kodaira share the one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Travelers Championship, where stars Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were forced to take a backseat.

    Unheralded duo Hickok and Kodaira upstaged the star-studded field following their seven-under-par 63s at TPC River Highlands on Thursday.

    Hickok – searching for his maiden PGA Tour title – offset a bogey at this first hole with eight birdies as the American golfer posted a career-low round in Cromwell, Connecticut.

    "I really only hit one bad putt — on the par-five 13th. Other than that, I just felt like the holes looked awfully big today," the 29-year-old said. "I made a lot of good putts today, and the greens says are rolling so good that just the holes look big."

    Japan's Kodaira matched his best score on the PGA Tour, from the second round of the 2018 RBC Heritage – his only victory.

    Kodaira holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the 348-yard par-four second hole.

    "I knew it was on target but didn't see it go in," he said. "I heard the applause, so I knew it went in."

    Talor Gooch is a shot behind Hickok and Kodaira, while Maverick McNealy, Brice Garnett, Beau Hossler, Henrik Norlander and Patrick Rodgers are a stroke further back heading into the second round.

    There is a 31-player logjam tied for 45th position at one under, headlined by DeChambeau, Koepka and Mickelson.

    DeChambeau, who was dethroned by Jon Rahm at last week's U.S. Open, mixed three birdies with two bogeys to start his Travelers Championship campaign.

    Four-time major champion Koepka also shared an identical round, while US PGA Championship winner Mickelson had four birdies and two bogeys.

    "I'm awful the week after a major, especially U.S. Open, because it takes so much out of you," said Koepka, who was tied for fourth behind Rahm at Torrey Pines. "But still should have played better. No excuse. I mean, I'm kind of tired. I am going to enjoy getting to bed tonight."

    The likes of Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler also shot 69s in round one.

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson – who slipped to second in the golf rankings following Rahm's U.S. Open triumph – started his bid for back-to-back titles with an even-par 70.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.