LAKE FOREST, Ill. – One year ago, the BMW Championship served as the height of “Rory Mania.” With the Wanamaker Trophy in hand and fresh off a win at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Rory McIlroy cruised to victory in this event for his second victory of the 2012 FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Fast forward to Thursday, across a year that has hardly gone as expected for the Ulsterman, and you may have arrived at the polar opposite of the heights achieved 12 months ago at Crooked Stick.
In need of a big week to have any chance of advancing to the season-ending Tour Championship, McIlroy opened with a 7-over 78 and finds himself tied for 66th among the 70-man field, 15 shots behind overnight leader Brandt Snedeker.
While many players found birdies by the handful Thursday at Conway Farms, the 24-year-old managed just two red figures and saw his round derailed by a triple-bogey 7 on the first hole, his 10th of the day. Beginning the week 41st in FedEx Cup points, McIlroy is now projected to drop to 54th after a round in which he reached only 11 of 18 greens in regulation. After this weekend, only the top 30 players in the standings will advance to next week’s season finale at East Lake.
McIlroy was not the only notable name to struggle Thursday outside Chicago. Entering this event on the FedEx Cup bubble at No. 30, Lee Westwood ballooned to a 9-over 80 while failing to record a single birdie in his opening round. The Englishman’s card included seven bogeys and a double-bogey 6 at the lengthy par-4 4th hole, as Westwood needed 34 putts to complete his round Thursday despite reaching just eight of 18 greens in regulation.
Westwood sits ahead of only one person (Scott Piercy) in the standings after 18 holes at Conway Farms. Just two months removed from nearly hoisting the claret jug, the 40-year-old now appears headed for an early playoff exit.