McIlroy and Tom Kim put on a show at CJ Cup, both 1 off lead

Oct 20, 2022, 3:51 AM | Updated: 4:01 pm
Rory Mcllroy of Northern Ireland watches his drive off the 18th tee during the first round of the C...

Rory Mcllroy of Northern Ireland watches his drive off the 18th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

              Matt Fitzpatrick of England reacts to his drive off the 12th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Rickie Fowler drives his ball off the 18th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Gary Woodland watches his drive down the 12th fairway during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Trey Mullinax watches his shot off the 12th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Tom Kim, of South Korea, reacts to his drive off the 18th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Tom Kim of South Korea hits from behind a tree on the 18th fairway during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Tom Kim of South Korea drives his ball off the 18th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              Rory Mcllroy of Northern Ireland watches his drive off the 18th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Ridgeland, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

RIDGELAND, S.C. (AP) — Tom Kim felt as much a spectator as a player Thursday in the CJ Cup, amazed at how Rory McIlroy produces so much power with so little effort.

Kim wasn’t too bad himself.

They were the star attractions on a beautiful morning at Congaree Golf Club, one of them pursuing the No. 1 world ranking, the other a 20-year-old who is quickly becoming one of the more popular players among his peers.

Trey Mullinax and former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland each had a 6-under 65. McIlroy and Kim, who played together in the same group with Rickie Fowler, were among those another shot back at 66.

“He makes this game look so easy,” said Kim, who won two weeks ago in Las Vegas to become the first player since Tiger Woods with two PGA Tour titles before turning 21. “It was really hard to just kind of play my own game sometimes, seeing the lines he took. It was like 380 (yards) to the runout and he was saying, ‘Sit!’ I was like, ‘Really? Like sit?’ But he almost made it.

“Obviously, what was the most important thing for me today was trying to play my own game and not look at his line. But it was still so much fun.”

McIlroy was equally impressed, mainly at how polished Kim plays at such a young age.

They matched birdies for so much of the day in different manners. One example was the par-5 fourth hole, where McIlroy hit a 360-yard drive that bounded along the firm, wide fairway, and belted a fairway metal just through the green. Kim was 50 yards behind him off the tee, still 64 yards from the hole after a fairway metal, and then clipped a wedge over a bunker to 7 feet for birdie.

McIlroy really showed his driving ability on the 366-yard 15th, with sand and water along the right side of the green. He hit his drive just onto the front of the green, even as Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas in the group ahead were putting.

“The longer I stood over that tee shot, the more likely it was that I was going to lay up, so I just needed to step up and hit it,” McIlroy said. “Whether they were on the green or not, I had to go.”

Some apologies were in order by McIlroy, minus the hard feelings.

“He was never going to fly it on the green,” Thomas said. “It was never going to hit us. We’re just jealous. I wish I had hit on the green.”

McIlroy needs to win to reach No. 1 in the world for the ninth time in his career, and he was off to a good start with a bogey-free round.

Kim was one better, firing at pins with his superb iron play and not getting as much as he would have liked with his putter. He was tied for the lead until pulling his tee shot on the 18th, having to play short of the water and missing an 8-foot par putt.

“He didn’t really miss a shot out there,” McIlroy said. “He’s a very, very solid player, plays to his strengths. Makes the same swing at it pretty much every time. He was sort of picking my brain a little bit out there about speed training and I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I think as he gets older and maybe a touch stronger, he’ll get that naturally.

“I was like, ‘Don’t go down that path, you’re good the way you are.'”

It was a good day for so many in the 78-man field, starting with Mullinax and Woodland. Both ran off three birdies early. Mullinax already was 7 under through 12 holes when his birdies dried up. Woodland finished with two birdies.

But not everyone.

Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player since late March and trying to hold off McIlroy, switched putters and didn’t have much to show for it with two birdies and two bogeys for a 71.

Jordan Spieth had a 75 with a round that included a triple bogey and a putt he missed from 16 inches. Spieth tried to backhand his short par putt on the 16th and it missed the hole, the lowlight of an otherwise rough start to his season.

Fowler, who had the 54-hole lead in Japan last week, fell back early when he four-putted from 20 feet on the fourth hole. He had a 74.

___

More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Putin honors skating coach in Valieva Olympic case

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze one of the country’s highest honors Monday, nearly a year after a doping case involving one of her top skaters overshadowed the Winter Olympics. A presidential decree dated Jan. 26 but published Monday lists Tutberidze, 48, among three people awarded the Order […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) is defended by Indiana Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith (23...
Associated Press

What LeBron passing Kareem means to NBA, greatest debate

It’s about to happen. LeBron James is finally on the brink of passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record, the torch getting passed from one member of the Los Angeles Lakers to another. James is 35 points away from Abdul-Jabbar’s total of 38,387. The record-breaker could come as early as Tuesday when the […]
1 day ago
The Philadelphia Eagles plane lands ahead of Super Bowl 57 NFL football game, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023,...
Associated Press

Super Bowl draws epic air show of private planes to Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP) — Former NFL player Jim Bob Morris is heading to the Super Bowl in Phoenix from Bloomington, Illinois, in a newly refurbished set of wheels. His ride has new paint, new seating and even a new bathroom. Morris, who played for the Green Bay Packers, Houston Oilers and was even with the Kansas […]
1 day ago
Leeds United's head coach Jesse Marsch looks on prior to the English Premier League soccer match be...
Associated Press

Jesse Marsch fired by Leeds after nearly a year in charge

LEEDS, England (AP) — American coach Jesse Marsch was fired by Leeds on Monday after nearly a year in charge of the relegation-threatened Premier League team. Leeds hasn’t won any of its last seven games in the league and has dropped into 17th place in the 20-team division, only out of the relegation zone on […]
1 day ago
FILE - Jaromir Jagr smiles during a press conference at the Kladno Knights hockey club in Kladno, C...
Associated Press

Jaromír Jágr scores his record 1,099th goal at almost 51

PRAGUE (AP) — Jaromír Jágr celebrated his 51st birthday about a week early by scoring his 1,099th goal to overtake Wayne Gretzky at the top of the chart. Jágr, who will turn 51 on Feb. 15, scored for the Kladno Knights on Sunday in 5-4 loss at Trinec in the Czech league. The winger, who […]
1 day ago
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin fails to complete the slalom portion of an alpine ski, women's Worl...
Associated Press

American skier Shiffrin fails to finish 1st race at worlds

MERIBEL, France (AP) — American skier Mikaela Shiffrin missed what looked like a certain gold medal Monday on the opening day of the world championships, skiing out of the women’s combined race with the finish in sight. Shiffrin straddled the third-to-last gate in her slalom run while appearing to be close to beating first-run leader […]
1 day ago
McIlroy and Tom Kim put on a show at CJ Cup, both 1 off lead