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McIlroy five behind joint-leaders Rose and Varner III as PGA returns after 91-day shutdown

No spectators were allowed at the Charles Schwab Challenge, which featured increased safety measures.

Rory McIlroy in action in Texas.
Rory McIlroy in action in Texas.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated Jun 11th 2020, 11:35 PM

RORY MCILROY IS five shots off the joint-leaders Justin Rose and Harold Verner III after a two-under 68 in the opening round of Charles Schwab Challenge.

The world number one sank three birdies throughout the round, on the first, eighth and ninth holes, with a bogey on the par-four sixth to leave him in the mix heading into the second round.

Both Rose and Verner III fired a seven-under par 63 to seize an early lead as the US PGA Tour ended a 91-day coronavirus shutdown and paid tribute to George Floyd.

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell is six off the lead at the after carding a one-under 69 in an opening round which included three birdies.

McDowell started his round on the 10th hole, sinking 10 straight pars before hitting a birdie at the third. He dropped shots at the second and fourth, but a further brace of birdies at the sixth and eighth gave him a strong finish.

Shane Lowry is two shots further back after a one-over 71. The Offaly man hit two bogeys at the third and 16th holes, along with a birdie at the par-three eighth.

Rose birdied seven of his first 12 holes then closed with six pars to grab a one-stroke clubhouse lead over Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.

No spectators were allowed at Colonial, which featured increased safety measures such as social distancing and temperature taking in the wake of the deadly disease outbreak.

The event observed a moment of silence at 8:46 am. for George Floyd, whose killing by a white policeman in Minnesota sparked worldwide protests over racial and social injustice.

The time, 8:46, represents the eight minutes and 46 seconds in which the policeman held a knee to the back of the handcuffed black man.

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PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan stood in silence at the first tee while three short air horn blasts halted play across the course as well as work on the practice putting green and driving range.

Prime scoring conditions greeted players with sunny skies and little to no wind.

England’s Rose, who turns 40 next month, began on the back nine and opened with a 25-foot birdie putt at 10, then added a birdie from eight feet at the 12th and followed by sinking an 18-footer for birdie at the par-3 13th.

The reigning Olympic champion struck again at the par-3 16th, holing a 12-foot birdie putt, and then ran off three birdies in a row to begin his second nine — making a four-foot putt at the par-5 first, a six-footer at the second and a 13-footer at the par-4 third.

Vegas, another 10th tee starter, sank a 21-foot birdie putt at 12 and ran off four in a row starting with a six-foot birdie putt at 17 and an 18-footer at 18, followed by tap-in birdies at the first and second.

The South American put his approach at the fifth three feet from the pin and made the birdie putt to pull within one of Rose, but missed the green and made bogey at the par-3 eighth before closing with a 21-foot birdie putt at the ninth.

With reporting from Sinéad Farrell 

- © AFP 2020

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