CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. (AP) — Cherry Hills had not hosted a PGA Tour-sanctioned event in nearly 30 years. When factoring in the mile-high air, it is relatively short by tour standards. Players talked about scores in the low 60s. It looked like it might be a fun place to play.
Nobody shot better than 67 in the first round of the BMW Championship.
Rory McIlroy, the world's No. 1 player, did manage to reach 5 under when he reeled off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn. But he started scrambling for pars, and couldn't hang on. He wound up with a 3-under 67 and a share of the lead with Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland.
"The scoring isn't that good out there," McIlroy said. "Not that it's not good, it's just not that low. It's tricky. It's playing a little bit like a U.S. Open. I wouldn't say it's quite as difficult as that, but it's thick rough, especially around the greens, and firm greens. That's what they need to keep the scoring the way it is."
In this 69-man field of elite players, no more than 21 players broke par.
McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, who had a 68, said there was a slight resemblance to a U.S. Open. Phil Mickelson, who won the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills, opened with a 70 and said it reminded him of Augusta National from the 1990s.
"The greens are the defense," he said.
Nine players failed to finish the first round because of late storms. That included Henrik Stenson, who was at 2 under with one hole to play.
Here are some things that had everyone talking after one round of the third FedEx Cup playoff event.
BOY WONDER: McIlroy now has gone two whole tournaments since his last victory, which only stands out because of what he was winning. He won the British Open and PGA Championship, and threw in a World Golf Championship in between.
McIlroy has slipped to No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings, though he is assured a clear shot at the $10 million bonus for whoever wins the FedEx Cup.
The altitude wasn't a problem at Cherry Hills. It was tough to get at some of the pins, and McIlroy did well during his stretch of birdies. But after two strong par saves, he couldn't get up-and-down from bunkers on Nos. 7 and 8.
He was frustrated. But he was atop the leaderboard. And that's never a bad thing.
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