NORTON, Mass. — The bad news for Rory McIlroy happened Friday, as he played his first three holes of the Deutsche Bank Championship opening round in 4-over par. The good news is that he's bounced back in a big way, playing the next 51 holes in 13 under, including a third-round 5-under 66 on Sunday that moved him into contention for his first PGA Tour win of the season.
"The way I'm looking at it is, how good a tournament would this be to win, being 4 over through three," said McIlroy, who is tied for seventh, 6 shots behind leader Paul Casey. "It's a great opportunity to do something that I've never done before. I've never started a tournament like that and went on to win it, so it's a great opportunity to try and overcome a little bit of adversity to start with and then get into it."
McIlroy has overcome his share of adversity already during this tournament. In addition to five bogeys, he has carded a double-bogey and a triple-bogey. Those have been counteracted by an impressive 17 birdies and an eagle that was nearly a double-eagle.
After backing off his second shot on the par-5 18th hole multiple times due to sudden wind gusts, McIlroy hit a 4-iron shot that bounced on the front of the green, rolled directly at the hole and lipped out.
"It was worth the wait," he laughed. "I had to back off the shot twice because the wind was gusting and I didn't know if I had enough club in the end. I hit a 4 iron as good as I could and buttoned it. It looked good for a while."
As to whether it would've been an albatross or a double-eagle, McIlroy remained firm: "Definitely albatross. I'm still European. I play for the blue team."
Paul Casey finished with a birdie and an eagle over the last three holes Sunday for a 5-under 66 and a three-shot lead going into the Labor Day finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Get all the latest scores for the Deutsche Bank Championship.
TV commentator Roger Maltbie never expected to find a valuable piece of memorabilia from one of his PGA Tour wins in 1975. On Saturday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he cashed in.
Speaking of playing for the blue team, McIlroy should have European Ryder Cup fans breathing easier with his putting display so far this week.
One week after switching to a Scotty Cameron putter and formalizing a working relationship with short-game guru Phil Kenyon, McIlroy is more than 4 strokes better on the greens than the field, according to the strokes gained putting statistic.
"I think I'm No. 1 on tour strokes gained off the tee, No. 2 strokes gained tee to green, so that stuff has been there all year," he explained. "Even the approach shots haven't been up to the standard I would like them to be, but even around the green I've been OK.
"It's just been the putting that's really let me down. I'm really happy with that; I'm happy with how I've held on. I'm happy with how I converted a few of the chances I had yesterday and today, and feel like if I can just keep that going, and build on the momentum that I have."