WATCH: McIlroy Makes Remarkable Birdie To Take Share Of The Lead At BMW Championship

Rory McIlroy barely hit a fairway on day one at Olympia Fields but that didn't stop him opening up with a 65

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy en route to an unlikely birdie at 17
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy hit just 3/14 fairways in the first round of the BMW Championship, yet emerged as the joint first-round leader after a bogey-free five-under 65.

McIlroy spent much of his first round playing from the rough at Olympia Fields but he would finish the day in a share of the top spot with Brian Harman, thanks in part to, even by his own lofty standards, a remarkable birdie at the 17th.

After an errant drive, which got a shunt forward off the cart path, he found himself with 116 yards left to the penultimate green but with a collection of trees and a gaping greenside bunker in his way. And a 7-iron in his hands to keep it under the branches.

"The window was OK. It was more 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 sort of near that front left bunker and I'll have a decent angle down the green and mostly have at least a 10-footer or less to save par," he explained.

"It was a bit of a hit and a hope. Just trying to thread that needle and hit it straight at the 17 sign. It was just one of those, it was either sort of chip it out or try to take it on, and it's only Thursday, I thought, what the heck, I'll take it on and see what happens."

The best bit was still to come as McIlroy rounded out his scrambling stats to 3/3 but, this time, his chip finished in the bottom of the hole. 

McIlroy actually rated his up-and-down at the 3rd as his favourite shot after flying the green by some distance before keeping his early run of pars going.

"I got a flyer and I hit a great pitch shot from over the back of the green there. That was probably for me the best shot of the day. That was a huge par save, and a big par save on 6, as well, the par-3 then, and then I birdied 7, and that got me going."

As for the lack of fairways McIlroy wasn't too fazed given how soft the course was playing on Thursday.

"It's almost an advantage to be playing out of the rough going into some of these greens because you know the ball is not going to spin. A lot of the tee shots I was just being super aggressive because I knew in the back of my mind I wasn't really being penalised for it. It was a nice comfort blanket to have, to swing a little harder at it.

"There's a few courses on Tour where you can sort of swing away at it and know if you miss the fairway you're usually going to be OK. I rode my luck a little bit, I got decent lies in the rough and from there I was able to get club on the ball and control my distance OK. I don't lose a lot of confidence with the driver, one bad day is not going to make me lose any sleep."

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.