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Eagle powers Rory McIlroy into 3-way tie for lead at BMW

Aug 26, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Rory McIlroy reacts after putting on the 15th green during the first round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Rory McIlroy reacts after putting on the 15th green during the first round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy went birdie-eagle on two of the last four holes Thursday to vault into a three-way tie with Sam Burns and Spain’s Jon Rahm at the BMW Championship outside Baltimore.

The trio fired opening 8-under 64s at Caves Valley Golf Club to take a one-shot lead in the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Sergio Garcia of Spain sits alone in fourth after his round of 65.

Patrick Cantlay and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer are tied for fifth, two shots back. Twelve players are T7 at 5 under, three shots back.

McIlroy, the star from Northern Ireland, was sitting at 5 under coming off a bogey on No. 13. After a birdie on No. 15, McIlroy hit his second shot on the 16th 286 yards to about 11 feet to set up the eagle. The 64 was his lowest opening round since a 64 at the Tour Championship in 2020.

“I’ve went through playoff stretches before where you’re always in that lead group. You’re either one, two or three in the FedEx Cup, and that can sort of take its mental toll,” McIlroy said. “I’m in a position where I need to play well just to play next week. There is an element of free-wheeling.”

Rahm got off to a hot start en route to posting a clean round. Rahm garnered five birdies on the front nine, including three in a row on holes 4-6. It was a great response for Rahm, who lost a two-shot lead on the back nine last week.

“Happiest animal in the world is a goldfish. You know why? He’s got a 10-second memory,” Rahm said. “Played great golf last week, just a couple of bad swings down the stretch, and that’s the most important thing to remember.”

Rahm, the BMW defending champ, also held a share of the lead after 18 holes last week in New Jersey.

Burns also played a bogey-free round, carding four birdies on the front and four coming in.

“Right now I’m focused on trying to give you the best answer I can, and after that I’ll try to figure out what I want to eat and just continue to do that over and over,” Burns said.

Defending FedEx Cup champion Dustin Johnson is among the cluster of golfers tied for seventh. Johnson recovered from a missed cut last week at The Northern Trust to card six birdies against one bogey for a 67. Also in that tie is Tony Finau, last week’s winner and the current FedEx points leader.

Phil Mickelson posted a 4-under 68 to sit T19.

The top 30 players at the conclusion of the BMW Championship will advance to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

–Field Level Media