Rory McIlroy starts steady at the Frys.com Open (despite hangover?)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy opened the 2015-16 season at the Frys.com Open with a solid four-under 67 at Silverado’s North Course. With an early tee time, McIlroy got off to a slow start after making bogey on his fourth hole (no. 13), but managed to bounce back with five birdies to keep himself in the mix.

Perhaps he was nursing a headache for the first few holes after consuming a few too many glasses of wine the night before. With the tournament taking place in the middle of California’s wine country, Rory admits it’s tough to find the right formula to both enjoy the fruits of Napa and play competitive golf.

“There is a lot of stuff to do off the golf course as well,” said McIlroy, cracking a sheepish smile. “Just trying to find a balance between not feeling too hungover when you tee it up the next day.”

McIlroy, who likely wouldn’t be playing in the event if he wasn’t obligated, struck the ball well, but he definitely left several shots out there due to his lackluster putting. He hit 17 out of 18 greens, but needed 31 putts. However, overall, he was pleased with his performance.

“It was better from tee-to-green than I was at the Tour Championship a couple weeks ago,” said McIlroy. “Definitely a step in the right direction today.

“I just didn’t hole that many putts. Holed a few. If I can get the putter going a little bit over the next three days, hopefully I can get up the leaderboard a little bit.”

McIlroy estimates he had at least five good lucks at birdies from inside 12 feet that he missed.

“On the greens, obviously gave myself a lot of chances,” he said. “I converted a few, but I’ll need to hole a few more. I feel like this is a golf course that you can give yourself a lot of chances. There are guys that are 6-, 7-, 9-under par right there. That’s what you sort of need to do around here.

“If I can keep hitting the ball the way I am and just hole a few more, I will be okay.”

He gave himself a solid “B” when asked to grade his round.

McIlroy played alongside Justin Rose, who is the next highest-ranked player in the field this week at no. 7. Rose shot a five-under 67, but he’s managed to gain distance with his driver in the past year. In fact, he was outdriving McIlroy, who is considered one of the Tour’s longer hitters, at the Tour Championship by 20-25 yards.

Say what? I seriously thought I misheard Rory when he said that.

“You just got to see the way he hits it out there,” said Rory. “I haven’t seen him hit the ball as long. Even at the TOUR Championship. I played with him and he was hitting it past me. That hasn’t really happened that much before.”

McIlroy, who is currently T10 with the afternoon wave still on the course, was so miffed that he changed the shaft on his driver prior to the Frys.com Open.

“So he was only getting by my by about five or ten today,” he said.

Rose credits his extra distance to technique that he’s worked on with his swing coach Sean Foley and gained even more length when he put the new TaylorMade M1 driver in his bag last month.

“I am hitting the ball further than I ever have,” said Rose. “Last year was the first year I’ve been inside the top 20 driving…

“I think the driver is a very different golf swing from the rest of the clubs. I don’t subscribe to one swing for every club. The driver is a different animal, and doing a few different things there.

“Obviously equipment (is a factor), driver has been fantastic. Picked up even more yardage this year with the M1. I’m training hard, work out and staying fit.”

Meanwhile, Brendan Steele is the clubhouse leader at nine-under.