PARAMUS New Jersey (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy’s bid for a career first FedExCup title got off to a rocky start on Thursday as he shot a three-over par 74 in the first round at The Barclays, the opening tournament of the four-event playoffs.
The Northern Irishman, ranked first in the world and first in the FedExCup standings after winning the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship in succession, trails the leading trio in the clubhouse by eight strokes.
Americans Cameron Tringale, Hunter Mahan and Charles Howell III, all shot five-under rounds of 66 at Ridgewood Country Club to share the clubhouse lead.
The 25-year-old McIlroy blamed his poor play on a lack of preparation and not on fatigue despite taking time to celebrate his blistering run and attending to added business commitments.
“I think it’s more to do with just not putting the adequate time into my game over the past week for obvious reasons,” he told reporters.
“So I’m going to grab a bite to eat here and go to the range this afternoon and work on a few things and really catch up on some practice that I probably missed out on over the past week.”
McIlroy, starting on the back nine, made a double-bogey and two bogeys before the turn and a birdie on the par-4 fifth hole was canceled out by another bogey on his penultimate hole - the eighth.
He slightly limited the damage by finishing his round with a birdie on the ninth hole to end at three-over - his first over-par round in competition since the final round of the U.S. Open back in June.
“I came here Monday morning, hit some balls, practiced pretty well. But I guess taking a week off and sort of getting back into it this week, I probably just needed to give myself a little bit more time,” added McIlroy, who did some promotional work with Tiger Woods and also appeared on a late night talk show with him.
“But I wasn’t going to do that. I was enjoying myself.”
Mahan used a string of three birdies from the 15th to grab a share of the lead, relying on a steady driver to stay out of the thick rough.
“Hit fairways, hitting greens, giving yourself a lot of good looks is the best way to play this golf course,” said Mahan, who said he benefited from perfect greens, being in the third group off the tee.
Tringale, playing in the same group as Mahan, birdied the last two holes for his 66. “We had great rhythm in the round. Everyone was playing well and hitting a lot of quality shots, so it kind of felt like I was just trying to keep up.”
Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Scotsman Russell Knox were both a stroke behind the leaders after carding 67s.
Additional reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Gene Cherry