McIlroy, Berger and Ancer share first-round lead at Hero World Challenge

By Sports Desk December 02, 2021

Rory McIlroy earned a share of the first-round lead after the former world number one carded a six-under-par 66 at the Hero World Challenge.

McIlroy – winner of October's CJ Cup – was almost flawless on the opening day as the four-time major champion joined Daniel Berger and Abraham Ancer a stroke clear atop the leaderboard.

McIlroy had an eagle, six birdies and a double-bogey at Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas on Thursday.

"It was nice to play the back nine the way I did and put myself back in the tournament," said McIlroy, who did not drop a shot on the back nine with three birdies and an eagle, which he improbably chipped in.

Berger boasted a four-shot advantage at one point in the first round after bursting out the blocks with four consecutive birdies, though two bogeys on the back nine undid some of that good work.

But McIlroy and Ancer ensured the American must share the lead entering Friday's second round, the former going five-under following the turn at the PGA Tour tournament.

Fellow leader Ancer finished in similar style, despite also faltering with a bogey on the ninth, recording five birdies after the halfway point to join the group on six under.

It looked like there would be a different leader, however, with American star Justin Thomas a shot in front until the final hole, which he double-bogeyed.

Brooks Koepka – a four-time major champion – joins the 2017 PGA Championship winner after registering 67, with Webb Simpson also a shot off the initial mark.

The quality on display does not stop there, with Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa all managing 68 to sit two shots off the three-man leading pack ahead of day two.

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    J.J. Spaun holds the outright lead at halfway at the FedEx St. Jude Championship while 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith made his move and Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler missed the cut.

    Spaun had shared the lead with Kim Si-woo after the opening day at TPC Southwind and backed that up with a three-under-par round of 67 to lead at 11 under after 36 holes. The American maintained his lead with five birdies along with two bogeys in his round.

    Kim slid down the leaderboard after a three-over-par round with Sepp Straka, who finished with three straight birdies, and Troy Merritt in joint second at 10 under behind Spaun, with Denny McCarthy one shot behind them.

    Merritt, McCarthy and Smith all carded five-under-par rounds of 65, with the latter moving up the leaderboard with birdies and an eagle on the par-five 16th hole.

    The Australian is eight-under-par after two rounds, equal with Brian Harman, Tony Finau and Ryan Palmer.

    Kevin Kisner is a further shot back after seven birdies highlighted his round of six-under-par 64, but that was bettered by both Tyler Duncan and Will Zalatoris.

    Duncan and Zalatoris carded rounds of 63, with the former going bogey free and draining seven birdies to move into joint ninth.

    Zalatoris had shot a first-day 71 but improved with seven birdies across a bogey-free round too, but is six under overall.

    McIlroy headlined the list of names to miss the cut, with three bogeys holding him back, including one on the 18th hole, as he shot 69 to fall short by one stroke.

    World number one Scottie Scheffler also failed to make the cut, despite an improved second round, not helped by a double bogey on the par-four ninth hole.

  • J.J. Spaun and Kim Si-woo share lead after first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship J.J. Spaun and Kim Si-woo share lead after first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship

    South Korea's Kim Si-woo and American J.J. Spaun are the co-leaders at eight under after one round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind.

    Being the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the field is made up of the top-125 from this season's FedEx Cup standings, minus LIV Golf signees Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford, who failed to have their exclusions overturned by a judge earlier this week.

    Spaun shot a bogey-free 62 with eight birdies, while Kim posted seven birdies, an eagle and a solitary bogey on the par-three fourth hole.

    Speaking on the broadcast after his round, Spaun said he hopes his performance during the playoffs will book his place at The Masters next year.

    "It will be nice to punch another ticket there and be able to plan it out and get down Sunday, maybe even Saturday the week before, take my time and enjoy all the little things that come along with that great tradition," he said. "Hopefully keep playing well this week and the next couple weeks, and I'll be there."

    In outright third place is Sahith Theegala at seven under, while one further shot back tied for fourth are Austria's Sepp Straka, South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon, American J.T. Poston and the red-hot Tony Finau, fresh off back-to-back PGA Tour wins for the first time in his career. Finau has shot no worse than 68 from his past 10 rounds.

    The logjam in a tie for eighth at five under includes England's Tyrrell Hatton, Australia's former world number one Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler, who barely squeezed into the final field. Last week's 20-year-old first-time winner Joo-hyung 'Tom' Kim highlights the group at four under, along with Adam Scott.

    Many of the serious contenders are at three under, including Cam Smith, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, and they are one stroke ahead of major winners Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry at two under.

    Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy shot even-par 70s, and the pair of Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris have plenty of work to do after finishing at one over.

    Scheffler was responsible for arguably the round's most viral moment as he caught a side-eye from playing partner Smith when he walked right in front of the Australian while he was lining up a putt, with many speculating it was an intentional slight due to reports Smith has signed on with LIV Golf for next season.

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    Rory McIlroy considered Tuesday "a good day" for members of the PGA Tour, as he felt the attempts of LIV Golf rebels to enter the FedEx Cup had made the dispute around the breakaway series "personal".

    A judge ruled ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship that LIV Golf players were not eligible to compete in the play-offs.

    Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford had filed a restraining order to allow them to play this week's tournament, while 11 LIV Golf stars put together an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.

    McIlroy, who said he was following the proceedings live on Tuesday, was delighted the trio had not been granted access after abandoning the Tour for the lucrative new Saudi-backed league.

    "From my vantage point, common sense prevailed, and I thought it was the right decision," McIlroy said.

    "And now that that has happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf, and we can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice."

    The four-time major winner, who finished third as Cameron Smith – reported to be the next LIV Golf signing – won The Open last month, was asked if the struggle between players on either tour had become "personal".

    "Yeah – and it was when that lawsuit was filed last week or whenever it was," McIlroy replied.

    "The thing that I would say [is that] I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven't put their names to the suit. Yeah, it's become a little more personal because of that."

    And while delighted with the outcome on Tuesday, McIlroy knows there will be plenty more battles ahead.

    Explaining his outlook, the Northern Irishman said: "Guys are going to make their own decisions that they feel is best for them, and that's totally fine.

    "I don't begrudge anyone for going over to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that's your prerogative and what you want to do, totally fine.

    "But I think where the resentment comes from, from the membership of this tour, is the fact that they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences.

    "Anyone that's read that PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.

    "That's sort of how it played out, and I think everyone that has abided by the rules was... There's such a long way to go – it's like you've birdied the first hole, but you've still got 17 holes to go – but it was a good day for the Tour and for the majority of the membership yesterday."

    McIlroy has been prominent in his opposition to LIV Golf, and he revealed on Wednesday he had received an offer from the Premier Golf League, but not from the latest threat to the PGA Tour.

    The 33-year-old was therefore asked if he enjoyed his role as an unofficial spokesperson for the PGA Tour.

    "Not really," McIlroy replied, but he does feel his game has somehow benefited from his being at the centre of a storm when off the course.

    "I don't feel like it's my job to be up here and stick up for the Tour or be a spokesperson," he said.

    "It's just sort of the role that I've found myself in, especially coming on the PGA Tour [policy] board this year. It was a great time to agree to do that...

    "I've said this to a few people: I feel when I then get myself inside the ropes, it's like no one can get to me, and it's really nice.

    "So, it's actually made the golf part of it way more enjoyable. And I sort of appreciate it a little bit more, because of all the other stuff that's going on.

    "If anything, it's probably helped my golf, just because I can get out there and I can not think about it and compartmentalise everything and maybe enjoy competing a little bit more – or at least appreciate it a little bit more with everything else that's going on."

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