'I'm not finding my rhythm yet': Rory McIlroy's Travelers Championship bid fizzles out

James Corrigan
The Telegraph
Rory McIlroy walks towards the green - GETTY IMAGES
Rory McIlroy walks towards the green - GETTY IMAGES

Rory McIlroy has resigned himself to another weekend without a trophy as his challenge for the Travelers Championship fizzled out with a “disappointing performance”.  The world No 1 labelled his game as “erratic” and that sums up his form since the PGA Tour resumed three weeks ago.

Starting four off the pace, McIlroy dropped two shots in his first four holes at the Hartford Golf Club in Connecticut - and then dropped two more on his last four holes. Fortunately there were four birdies in between, which, together with the three he made on the par-four second, limited the damage to a far from disgraceful 69. 

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But now on 10-under, standing eight shots off the leader, American Brendan Todd, and in a tie for 18th, McIlroy conceded that his first title since October was out of reach. 

“Too far back and too many people between me and the lead,” McIlroy said. “I guess, if I’d been able to sneak a couple over the last few holes, got to 14 (under) I would have felt I was right in it. But I went the other way and that's what has taken me out of it.”

The very least of McIlroy’s ambitions will be to get back on the top-10 track and shrug off the past two poor Sundays that have seen him come 32nd at Colonial and 41st at Harbour Town.

“It's all a little erratic, “McIlroy said. “The good stuff is in there, but obviously there's a bit of bad, too. I’m just putting it down to having those few months off and not finding my rhythm yet. Hopefully I'll post a low one tomorrow and have a week off.”

Todd has only made one bogey all week so far and the once-struggling journeyman was at his rejuvenated best as he matched Dustin Johnson’s 61 to take aim at his third victory in this campaign. Johnson’s nine-under magnificence was the lowest of his PGA Tour career and took him to within one of the pacesetter. 

Another American, Kevin Streelman, is in third on 15-under, while Bryson DeChambeau is on 13-under and not completely out of the equation. Does 50-year-old Phil Mickelson even have a chance on 12-under? It could be an enthralling finale, with so many birdie opportunities, and better, on offer. But still this £6 million shootout continues to be overshadowed by the coronavirus issue.

With seven players having withdrawn during the week, there were fears Jason Day was about to become the eighth on Saturday. The Australian awoke feeling unwell, but instead of pulling out he asked to be tested. In their wisdom, the Tour obliged and put out the former world No 1 as a one-ball after the final group had teed off. Day’s test came back negative.

It is a bizarre scenario in many respects and the tales of Cameron Champ and Webb Simpson have only muddied the waters still further and put the Tour’s testing system under increased scrutiny.

Champ tested positive on Tuesday and was told he would have to quarantine in the area. But on Saturday the 25 year-old released a statement revealing he was free to travel home to Houston after testing negative three times in 72 hours. 

Presumably, the first result has been deemed erroneous. As consolation, Champ will receive the $100,000 stipend from the Tour for any player who tests positive at a tournament.

This was not the first time the validity of the tests has been questioned. On Wednesday, Ricky Elliott, Brooks Koepka’s caddie, tested positive, forcing the world No 4 to withdraw. But the Northern Irishman later that day tested negative. By then, it was too late.

Simpson’s case is different but intriguing all the same. The world No 5 who won last Sunday at Hilton Head, is playing next week despite having pulled out from the Travelers field on Wednesday after his daughter tested positive. “I am going to return home to Charlotte and quarantine under CDC guidelines, and look forward to returning to competition after that time period,” Simpson said at the time.

But on Saturday it was all change as he revealed that his entire family had now been given the all-clear. "The last week has been a roller coaster of emotions,” Simpson said. “From the high of a great week in Hilton Head to the realities of Covid-19 and the impact it can have on a family. Thankfully, I am happy to report that the Simpson family has all tested negative.”

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