‘Rusty’ Rory McIlroy 3 back after opening 69 at Irish Open

‘Rusty’ Rory McIlroy 3 back after opening 69 at Irish Open
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A week off still left Rory McIlroy a bit rusty at the Irish Open.

Having not practiced much following the Tour Championship, McIlroy salvaged his opening round at the K Club with two consecutive birdies to close for a 3-under 69 that put him three shots off the early pace.

McIlroy suffered back spasms a few days before the start of the PGA Tour’s season finale, and he battled through the ailment to finish fourth at East Lake. In the week and a half since he said he practiced only a handful of times, to ensure that his fitness was the top priority.

Though he said the back injury itself was “not at all” an issue on Thursday, McIlroy more pointed to the effects it had on his preparation.

“It’s hard to say I’m rusty when I’ve only had a week off, but I just haven’t had a chance to practice much and I hit a few loose shots out there,” McIlroy said. “But I managed my game well and scraped it around in 3 under, which is nice and sort of gets me in the tournament.”

McIlroy, who currently leads the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, has a busy stretch upcoming, with the Irish Open, next week’s BMW PGA Championship and then the Ryder Cup at the end of the month. Though the world No. 2 has been remarkably consistent over the past few months – he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since May – he’s hoping to fine-tune his game with an eye on the matches in Rome. He said he was heading to the range post-round on Thursday to hit some balls – a promising sign that he’s nearing full fitness again.

“More than anything it’s trusting yourself, trusting your swing, trusting your ability to swing the way you want to swing,” he said. “It’s only been a week between the Tour Championship and here, so it’s not a lot of time, but it’s just those patterns and where you’re missing it. You get a little more comfortable knowing if you’re missing it right, you’re missing it left, where to aim, where not to aim. I just haven’t played a ton over the last 10 days and am sort of out of rhythm of that. Hopefully, as the week progresses, I can get a little more comfortable.”

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