BMW Championship: Rory McIlroy trying to erase bad restart

Rory McIlroy is in contention at the BMW Championship and he could erase some bad memories over the past couple of months with a win in Chicago.

Since the PGA Tour restarted its season in June, Rory McIlroy has not been the same as he was earlier in the season. However, on Friday at the BMW Championship, the former world number one looked like his old self for the first time in a while.

McIlroy was on fire early in the season. In his first six starts, he finished in the top five each time. That included a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November. He seemed like the best player in the world.

Then, the pandemic hit and the golf world stopped for three months. McIlroy seemed to have trouble shaking off the rust as the tour got going again.

Instead of top five finishes, McIlroy consistently found himself placing between 25 and 50. In fact, since the resumption of play in June, he has just one top 25 finish. That came when he tied for 11th at the Travelers Championship in late June.

McIlroy was never in contention at the season’s only major so far, the PGA Championship, where he finished in a tie for 33rd. At last week’s first playoff event, the Northern Trust, he made the cut but saw a Saturday round of 74 drop him way down the leaderboard. He ultimately finished in a tie for 65th place.

This week in Chicago, McIlroy fought through a tough Thursday round to shoot an even-par round of 70. That left him just three shots behind first-round leader Hideki Matsuyama.

On Friday, McIlroy made his charge up the leaderboard.

Playing the back nine first, McIlroy had birdies at the 11th and 13th holes to get to 2-under on the day and in the tournament. A bogey at the 14th hole dropped him to 1-under, but he got that shot back on the 16th, when he ran in a 40-foot birdie putt from the fringe.

As he made the turn, McIlroy birdied the first hole to get to 3-under par and into a tie for the lead. However, he would go bogey-birdie-bogey on holes three through five, slipping back to 2-under par. However, he still held a share of the lead.

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A bogey on the 8th hole dropped McIlroy to 1-under par on his round. But a par on the ninth hole, his final hole of the day, left McIlroy in a tie for the lead.

McIlroy has not been the same player since the tour’s resumption in June. But he could make all of that go away with a big week this week and next.