Van Pelt leads as McIlroy struggles

Rory McIlroy’s recent run of form finally deserted him at the Barclays on Thursday, as Bo Van Pelt grabbed the lead with a 65.

As the American set the pace with a six-under-par 65 in the first round of the first leg of the FedEx Cup play-offs at Ridgewood CC in New Jersey, McIlroy admitted that the distractions following his recent run of successes took their toll.

The Northern Irishman, fresh off victories at the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship, made the turn in four-over 40 before picking up a shot on the way back on the way to a three-over 74.

That leaves him a full nine shots back of Van Pelt heading into Friday’s second round.

McIlroy, who appeared on late-night US television with Tiger Woods earlier this week, days after parading his Claret Jug at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground last weekend, said he needed to regain his focus to get back into contention.

“I’m not quite on my game, I’ve not quite put in the time over the last few days for obvious reasons,” he said on Sky Sports.

“I’m going to go and have some lunch and then work on the range, work on a few things, and try to catch up on some practice I’ve missed out on over the last week and try to be ready for tomorrow.

“For me, not being here for the weekend isn’t an option. I’ve got to work hard today on the range and get out there and get off to a fast start tomorrow, and get myself back into this tournament.”

Van Pelt came into the Barclays ranked just 104th after a poor run of form earlier in the year, but he certainly made up for it on Thursday.

He leads by one over eight others, including Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and England’s Paul Casey.

Having just been happy to have made the FedEx Cup play-offs, Van Pelt is now aiming for much more.

“Once I knew I was getting here, that was a big relief with how poorly I started, and I was just having fun with it,” he said.

Van Pelt missed eight of his first 15 cuts this season, but has played better in the recent weeks.

“I felt like my game wasn’t that bad but my scores were pretty horrible,” he said. “So I just felt like, man, if I could just get a little momentum going in the right direction.”

Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Justin Rose were among those on three under, while Phil Mickelson opened with a level-par 71.