Rory McIlroy In Contention At The WGC With New Caddy Harry Diamond

Oscar Cross
August 7, 2017

A sharp short game and hot putter helped Thomas Pieters grab the first-round lead as headliners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy lurked close behind at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday. This week and beyond, the consensus is growing that although others will no doubt intrude from time to time on their private party, it is these...

"I think it's been a good week, obviously wanting to play well this week but with one eye on next week", McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"I've seen some good improvements with my iron play over the past three days and the plan is to go out and be aggressive, make a bunch of birdies and see where that leaves me".

"It's just important for me to have a good week".

"I managed to find a lot of greens today".

The world number three started Sunday's final round two shots off the lead, but chipped in from 60 feet for an eagle on the par-five second and also birdied the third and sixth to move top of the leaderboard.

Pieters, who won a record four points on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine past year after being given a wild card by European captain Darren Clarke, then birdied the fifth and eighth before dropping his first shot of the day on the ninth.

The two-time major victor was in contention for the John Deere Classic in July going into the final day's play but struggled to cope with the nerves as he slipped down the field to finish in a tie for fifth.

Moments after Johnson holed a 10-foot birdie on the 18th for a 65 to take the lead, Pieters joined him with his long putt.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan was by himself in fourth, two behind the leaders, after a second consecutive 67. "This is the best I've driven it probably all year".

"Anywhere I have a chance to win I'll definitely take it", said Pieters, who has won three times on the European Tour.

Johnson will be seeking his first title since he captured his second career major at the British Open at St Andrews in 2015.

But from 250 yards away the big-hitting Belgian fired his approach onto the green to set up a two-putt birdie, before nearly spinning his approach to the third back into the hole.

A wild drive at the ninth proved costly as the Belgian had to hole a six-footer to limit the damage to a bogey and, after he responded with another birdie at 10, the Ryder Cup star dropped further shots at 13 and 14 before getting back into the outright lead with his seventh birdie of the round at the 16th.

But the reigning PGA champion lifted his spirits with a faultless inward half, and birdies at 15 and 16 hoisted him back to four under for the tournament.

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