Rory McIlroy in Canadian Open contention despite playing back 9 “blind”

To no one’s surprise, Rory McIlroy sits near the top of the leaderboard at the RBC Canadian Open after his first 18 holes.

The Northern Irishman carded a bogey-free 4-under 66 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, and sits three shots off current leaders Sean O’Hair and Sam Burns. O’Hair and Burns a pair of 7-under 63s during the morning wave.

But McIlroy made a surprising admission after his round.

“I played the back nine blind,” McIlroy said.

“Only played the front nine in the pro-am. I was happy enough to get out of there in even par and not make a bogey. Once I got that nine holes out of the way I knew there were some chances on that front side and played probably much better on that front side. Four birdies there, no bogeys was a good day’s work.”

His putter got over in his final four holes, as he made three birdies in that stretch.

McIlroy hit 16-of-18 greens in regulation on Thursday. He also picked up 3.2 strokes in approach to the green, which currently leads the field.

Despite making 14 pars on his round, keeping that scorecard clean served as a huge momentum booster for him. Earlier this year, he seemed to have a stretch in which a bogey or worse would derail his round.

However, in recent events, he has limited those mistakes.

“Thankfully, it’s something I’m starting to do again,” he said.

“At the start of the year, or at least through February, March, and April, I was making some big numbers, and there was a lot of volatility on the scorecard. But to play bogey-free rounds is really nice again.”

The 35-year-old is the odds-out favorite to win his third RBC Canadian Open in four starts.

McIlroy will begin his second round alongside reigning champion Nick Taylor and Taylor Pendrith in the afternoon wave on Friday at 12:55 p.m. ET.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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