Lynch: Rory McIlroy feeling like a rookie, playing like a veteran

Jan 25, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 14th tee during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course - North Course. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

Lynch: Rory McIlroy feeling like a rookie, playing like a veteran

PGA Tour

Lynch: Rory McIlroy feeling like a rookie, playing like a veteran

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SAN DIEGO — It’s been more than a decade since Rory McIlroy started getting paid to play golf, but the 29-year-old, four-time major champion admitted Friday that 2019 feels like his rookie season.

Until the Farmers Insurance Open this week, McIlroy had never seen the two host golf courses at Torrey Pines. Nor had he previously played at Kapalua in Hawaii, where earlier this month he made his first start of 2019 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The Northern Irishman has traditionally opened his season at European Tour events in the Middle East, but announced last fall that he’d compete primarily on the PGA Tour this year.

So far, he’s enjoying the fresh scenery.

“I like that it’s new and exciting and going to different places. When you’ve done the same exact thing for 11 years in a row, you want a little bit of something different,” he said. “I definitely enjoyed my time at Kapalua and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. With the schedule that’s coming up I’m probably going to play a couple of new courses as well. It’s a little different than it has been the last few years and that’s exciting.”

The results are offering cause for optimism too. At Kapalua he played his way into the final group on Sunday, eventually finishing T-4 after a disappointing closing 72. On Friday at Torrey Pines he shot 65 on the North Course, then insisted he had played better in posting a first round 71 on the more difficult South Course.

“I came off the golf course yesterday very pleased. I played very well,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t capitalize. I had irons into the first three par-5s and made three pars. I actually played better tee to green yesterday than I did today.”

McIlroy began with an eagle on the North’s 10th hole then added another at No. 16 courtesy of a holed wedge shot. “It’s the first time in nearly five years I’ve had two eagles in one round of golf,” he said. The last time he managed that was at the Open Championship in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, which he went on to win.

Eventually he had to settle for mere birdies—four of them, to go with one bogey—and finished 8-under-par through 36 holes. That moved him into the top 10 on the leaderboard by the time he signed his card, but still a distant seven strokes off the lead of Justin Rose. Despite that, McIlroy was happy to have achieved his goal for Friday—to play catch-up after a sluggish Thursday.

“Only shooting one-under yesterday on the South Course, I knew I needed to go out there and shoot something at least in the mid-60s to just make the cut, let along get myself back in the golf tournament,” he said. “All in all, a good round of golf and at least I have a good shot going into the weekend.”

And if McIlroy plays his way into contention again, that rookie feeling will disappear fast. After all, he’s the only “rookie” here who already owns 14 PGA Tour wins.

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