Tough start for McIlroy

Rory McIlroy's bid for a fourth tournament win in a row got off to a rather rocky start as he carded an opening round of 74 at The Barclays in New Jersey.

The world No 1 came into the first leg of the four-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs looking to extend his amazing run that has seen him triumph at the Open, the US PGA Championship and also the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

However the Northern Irishman has some work to do if he is to continue his hot streak after having to sign for a three-over score on Thursday at the Ridgewood Country Club.

McIlroy went out in 40 shots, despite coming close to recording a birdie at the 10th - his first hole of the day, as he registered a double-bogey on the 12th and followed that with bogeys on the 13th and 18th. As he reached the turn, he found himself last of all players on the course at the time.

A birdie at the fifth offered hope but the 25-year-old gave that shot back on the eighth, missing a four-foot attempt for par. He did at least finish with a flourish, carding a three at the par-four ninth.

"I'm not quite on my game, I've not quite put in the time over the last few days for obvious reasons," McIlroy told Sky Sports afterwards.

"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."

The tournament favourite finds himself nine shots adrift of early leader Bo Van Pelt, who moved clear on his own at six under in style by chipping in for eagle at the par-five 17th. The American did admit afterwards that he didn't actually make a good connection from just off the front of the green, fearing at first that it might end up short of the cup.

"Through the middle I played well but I just didn't convert on a coiple of opportunities," he said. "Probably the key was on the 15 - I hit a poor shot but then made par. I then went three-three on 16 and 17 to finish the round."

Ben Martin, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Brendon Todd, Charles Howell III and Cameron Tringale are all one adrift of their compatriot on five under par, along with Englishman Paul Casey and Brendon De Jonge of Zimbabwe.

Home favourites Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson are on three under, the same score as England's Justin Rose - who was on four under until he bogeyed his penultimate hole - and South African Ernie Els.

Australian Adam Scott is on two under, one ahead of Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, was level par, as too were European trio Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer.

The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings have qualified for The Barclays, with the field being trimmed to 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship, 70 for the BMW Championship and then 30 for the Tour Championship with the man finishing at the top of the standings claiming a 10million US dollars bonus.

McIlroy led the way coming into the tournament, followed by Jimmy Walker, Watson, Matt Kuchar and Furyk.

Watch coverage of the second round of the Barclays LIVE on Sky Sports 4 HD from 7pm on Friday