SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — In the midst of drastic changes to his swing, Rory McIlroy shot a level-par 71 at the French Open to lie five shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard after the first round on Thursday.
McIlroy, currently in the spotlight because of his decision to skip the Olympics over concerns about the Zika virus, had four birdies and four bogeys around L’Albatros course at the Le Golf National, the 2018 Ryder Cup host.
“I’ve got about four or five swing thoughts out there at the minute,” the fourth-ranked McIlroy said, “so that’s why I’m sort of happy with 71.”
McIlroy was asked what he was working on, and joked: “Have you got 10 minutes?”
“My left-hand grip is too strong. Takeaway was going on the inside. Wasn’t holding my right elbow properly at the top of my swing. Wasn’t getting my right knee out of the way on the downswing … I’ve been working on a few things.”
McIlroy said he is attempting to get his new swing “all bedded in” in time for the British Open, which starts July 14 at Royal Troon in western Scotland.
“I’ve got another hopefully three competitive rounds here,” the Northern Irishman added. “I’ve got all next week and then obviously a few days leading up to the Thursday of The Open.”
Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 66, helped by his first ever hole-in-one – a 7-iron from 202 yards downwind at No. 2. The 137th-ranked Dane was playing with a new set of clubs after his own was lost in transit, and also had five birdies.
“Maybe I should just keep these now and let the airline company keep my old ones,” said Bjerregaard, who also is looking to claim one of the four qualifying places for the British Open up for grabs this week. They will go to the leading four players, not otherwise exempt, who finish in the top 12 and ties.
Thomas Pieters of Belgium, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Adrian Otaegui of Spain were a shot behind Bjerregaard after 67s. Otaegui is the only one of that quartet yet to have qualified for the British Open.