CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Rory McIlroy said he felt anything under par was a good score Thursday at Cherry Hills, even if he had reason to expect much better.
McIlroy ran out of par saves late in the opening round at the BMW Championship and had to settle for a 3-under-par 67, still enough for the world’s No. 1 player to share the lead with Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland.
Cherry Hills, one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour when factoring in the mile-high air, held up fine in the third of four FedEx Cup events.
“It’s tricky. It really is,” McIlroy said. “The altitude, we’ve had a couple of days to adjust to that. It’s fine. But these greens have gotten so much firmer over the last 24 hours. I think that’s what is giving the guys just a little trouble out there.”
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Kevin Chappell, who owns a home in Kirkland, was among nine players at 2 under. The others were U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Billy Horschel, Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Graham DeLaet and Henrik Stenson.
Rain suspended the first round with nine players still on the course, including Stenson.
Ryan Moore (80) of Puyallup was last. He had bogeys on four of his last six holes.
Spieth ran into some trouble, though he countered with six birdies and figured out the nasty combination of soft turf in front of the greens and putting surfaces that felt as if they had been mixed with cement.
“Today, I had a good short game,” Spieth said with a smile, a strong comment from someone with one of the best short games in golf.
Woodland three-putted from about 50 feet on the fourth hole.
“Probably the firmest golf course we have ever seen,” he said. “The greens, they’re concrete out there.”
The top 30 in FedEx Cup points after this event advance to the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, where everyone will have a mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus.
McIlroy has proved himself plenty this year, winning the British Open and the PGA Championship, with a World Golf Championships tournament title in between. He is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings behind Deutsche Bank Championship winner Chris Kirk, though he is assured a clear shot at winning the cup.
McElroy has been saying during these FedEx Cup playoffs that his big year deserves a big finish.
“The scoring isn’t that good out there,” he 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.”
McIlroy wasn’t the only player to reference a major.
“It felt close to it,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it’s not a long course with the altitude and everything, but a lot of the shots had to be hit perfectly to be able to hit it close to the pin.”
• Richie Ramsay of Scotland and Edoardo Molinari of Italy had 8-under 62s to lead after the first round of the European Masters in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
• Brooke Mackenzie Henderson shot a 3-under 69 to help Canada retain a two-stroke lead after the second round of the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Karuizawa, Japan. Japan was in second and the United States was tied for 10th.