Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy stumble in All-Star pairing at Northern Trust
NORTON, Mass. — Maybe not having fans at the Northern Trust was for the best. Saturday's biggest gallery would have followed Tiger Woods (...)
NORTON, Mass. — Maybe not having fans at the Northern Trust was for the best. Saturday’s biggest gallery would have followed Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, and as someone who walked all 18 holes with them today, I can tell you this: It was pretty ugly watching Woods shoot 73 and McIlroy 74.
How bad was it? McIlroy made two triple-bogeys in his first six holes and shot a front-nine 40. Had the pair of former world No. 1s been playing a match, it would have been all-square at the turn.
McIlroy and Woods had not played great on Thursday and Friday. That’s how they wound up with an 8:30 a.m. ET tee time. Realistically, both had to know they were not going to put pressure on the leaders this week, but after starting out nicely – McIlroy made birdie on the first hole and Woods a tap-in par – the wheels came off.
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McIlroy’s third shot on the second hole from the penalty area ricocheted off a rock and went backwards into the hazard. He was forced to walk back to the fairway and play a ball from the drop zone 96 yards away. After hitting onto the green, he promptly three-putted for an eight on the par 5.
A beautiful iron shot to 10 feet lead to a birdie putt, and McIlroy appeared to be shaking things off as he smiled and joked with caddie Harry Diamond on the long walk to the third green.
But three holes later, McIlroy made another triple bogey, a seven on the par-4 sixth hole. After hitting his third shot from the thick rough behind the green about four feet, he blasted his next shot high into the air and 45 feet off the front of the green. He pitched back onto the putting surface, made two putts from 13 feet and then drew three squares around a seven on his scorecard.
Meanwhile, Woods, who made birdie on the par-5 second hole, could not buy a putt. He missed from four feet, seven feet, two from nine feet and one from 16 feet through the first seven holes. Woods made the turn at even-par 36 but then lipped out from eight feet on 11 for bogey and missed an 8-footer on 12 for a three-putt bogey.
Neither golfer would ever admit to giving up, but knowing their names were near the bottom of the leaderboard and seeing the breaks they were getting, McIlroy and Woods appeared to relax. They smiled and talked as they walked off tee boxes. They weren’t throwing clubs and smacking the ground in frustration. Midway through the back nine, they were past that point. They were in a mindset that is so familiar to recreational players: Trying to hit good shots resigned to the fact that today was not their day.
Woods and McIlroy bother declined requests from media members for comments after they signed their scorecards. However, they did appear to enjoy a nice lunch of burgers and Diet Cokes outside the media tent afterward.
Everyone has a bad day at the office, and Woods and McIlroy have both shot higher scores than they posted today. That said, trends can’t be ignored.
Woods came into the Northern Trust ranked No. 49 on the FedEx Cup point list. He needed a strong finish here or at next week’s BMW Championship to get inside the top 30 and qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship. He is now projected to be in the mid- to high-50s, and while there is still one round left to be played at TPC Boston, the pressure is on next week.
McIlroy started the week at No. 8 on the FedEx Cup point list and is projected to remain in the top 15. He should make it to East Lake and the Tour Championship, but since the PGA Tour restarted, he’s not been the player he was during the winter and early spring. Before the Players Championship was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, McIlroy played seven events in the 2019-20 schedule and finished in the top five in all of them, including a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Since the restart, his only top-30 finish has been a T-11 at the Travelers Championship.
Neither Woods nor McIlroy is going to win the Northern Trust. Sunday, however, could be a tone-setting round for next week’s BMW Championship.