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If there was a prize reserved for the wildest birdie of the year, Rory McIlroy has just claimed it.

McIlroy may have hit just three fairways in his opening round of the BMW Championship, but that did not stop him taking a share of the lead with Open champion Brian Harman at Olympia Fields.

And the Northern Irishman’s position at the top of the leaderboard after round one is owed to an outrageous recovery from the trees on the par-4 17th.

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His latest errant drive had bounced off the cart path well into the rough, leaving a small gap to the green that was fully protected by a large front bunker.

So with 116 yards to the pin and branches to negotiate, 7-iron was the play. We’ll let McIlroy explain the rest.

“The window was OK,” he said. “It was more there was a couple of branches above the window I was looking at, and I was like, if it hits those, it’s just going to drop down sort of near that front left bunker and I’ll have a decent angle down the green and mostly have at least a 10-footer or less to save par.

“It was a bit of a hit and a hope. Just trying to thread that needle and hit it straight at the 17 sign. It was just one of those, it was either sort of chip it out or try to take it on, and it’s only Thursday, I thought, what the heck, I’ll take it on and see what happens.”

McIlroy did indeed thread the needle, missing one of the trees by a matter of inches and watched his low bullet run through the sand behind the back of the green into the rough.

A par-save from his lie over the back would have sufficed, but McIlroy went one better, with his delightfully played chip tracking all the way into the cup for the most unlikely of threes. This was pure McIlroy magic.

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Such has been the deluge of rain in Chicago, the opening round was played with preferred lies on the fairways.

McIlroy, though, is not too concerned about finding the short grass off the tee this week, and no wonder given his exploits out of the thicker stuff.

“It’s almost an advantage to be playing out of the rough going into some of these greens because you know the ball is not going to spin,” he explained.

“A lot of the tee shots I was just being super aggressive because I knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t really being penalised for it. It was a nice comfort blanket to have, to swing a little harder at it.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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