Rory McIlroy and Brian Harman share lead at BMW Championship

Rory McIlroy and Brian Harman share lead at BMW Championship after 5-under 65 on day one at Olympia Fields

  • McIlroy only hit the short grass on six occasions with 18 tee shots on Thursday
  • Brian Harman also shares the lead with the Northern Irishman after a strong day 
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Rory McIlroy and Brian Harman are joint-leaders at the BMW Championship after a rain-soaked day at Olympia Fields.

McIlroy found the short grass only six times with 18 tee shots – three of them on par 3s – and no one would have guessed that looking at his card. 

He played bogey-free for a 5-under 65, giving him a share of the lead with British Open champion Harman in the second FedEx Cup playoff event.

‘Only hitting three fairways today and coming up with 65 is a bit of a bonus,’ McIlroy said.

The greens were so soft from a two-hour rain delay in the morning that McIlroy realized trying to get at pins was easier coming from the rough, because the ball wouldn’t have as much spin.

Rory McIlroy played a bogey-free for a 5-under 65, giving him a share of the lead on Thursday

‘I’m not saying I was trying to aim for the rough,’ he said with a smile.

And certainly the spot he found himself in at the par-4 17th wasn’t ideal. He only had 116 yards left on the 456-yard hole, but he had a stand of trees blocking his path to the green, a big bunker in front of the putting surface.

He punched 7-iron through a gap in the branches, just over the bunker, just over the green and then chipped in for birdie. It was that kind of day.

‘There was a couple of branches above the window I was looking at, and I was like, `If it hits those, it’s just going to drop down near that front left bunker and I’ll have a decent angle down the green and have a 10-footer or less to save par,’ he said. 

‘It was a bit of a hit-and-a-hope. Just trying to thread that needle. It was either chip it out or take it on. And it’s only Thursday.

‘I thought, “What the heck? I’ll take it on and see what happens.'”

Harman, who returned from his British Open title last week at the FedEx Cup playoff opener with some rust, delivered his excitement toward the end of the round. He holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th, and then chipped in for birdie on the 17th.

They were were one shot clear of a large group at 66 that included Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sahith Theegala and Rickie Fowler, a good start for different reasons.

Brian Harman also shot a 5-under 65 to co-lead the chasing pack with McIlroy in Illinois

Scheffler had one nine months without finishing worse than 12th, and then has gone consecutive weeks outside the top 20 as his putting has been a struggle. It was nice to see them go in for a chance. Fowler has a chance to earn one of the six automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team by winning.

As for Fitzpatrick and Theegala, it’s all about being among the top 30 in the FedEx Cup after this week to advance to the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake.

Fitzpatrick is No. 40 and needs a good finish to reach the Tour Championship and salvage a disappointing year. Last year’s U.S. Open champion beat Jordan Spieth in a playoff at Hilton Head, but he has one top 10 in his last nine starts that has seen his FedEx Cup standing drop.

Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young were among those at 67, both trying to improve their Ryder Cup stock. Jon Rahm, two-time defending champion Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth were at 68. Lucas Glover, going for his third straight victory in as many weeks, shot 70.

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