“It was the worst I could have shot”- Rory opens with 73 after stumbling finish

Peter Finnan

Rory McIlroy plays his shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Peter Finnan

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Despite dropping two shots in his last five holes Rory McIlroy was pleased with how he played in his opening round but feels he didn’t get the score he perhaps deserved.

McIlroy got his latest quest for the career grand slam underway with a one-over 73 to lie six shots behind early leader Sungjae Im. Having played solidly in the opening two-thirds of his round, the Holywood native frustratingly fluttered shots away on his way to the clubhouse.

McIlroy failed to birdie the two par-5s on the back nine and three-putted the 14th from 15-feet for bogey and a tee shot into the back right bunker on 16 cost him another dropped shot as he fell the wrong side of par.

“I played really well,” said McIlroy. “I think I hit like 12 fairways and 14 greens and just didn’t really get a lot out of the round. I had a putt on 14 to go to 2-under for the day with the par-5 to play, and I three-putt that, and that sort of halted any momentum I had.

“Didn’t birdie 15 and hit it in that right bunker on 16 and didn’t get it up and down. I feel like it was the worst I could have shot today. I feel like I played really, really well. I pulled a couple of putts, so I want to go on the putting green now and work on that a bit.

A lot has been made of how McIlroy starts in Major championships and it appeared to be plain sailing when he drained a 25-foot putt on 11 for a rare birdie to move into the red. With a scoring average of 74 in his opening rounds, a 73 might look like a trademark slow start but the four-time major winner is just four shots off third place and didn’t show too much concern over his standing on the early leaderboard.

“I’m just pleased that I played well. I don’t really care where I’m at on the leaderboard or it doesn’t matter. I played well. I hit the ball great from tee to green for the most part. So I’m pleased with that.

“You know, the wind was up a little bit. But still the course was receptive enough that there were scores out there obviously. You saw that even the afternoon guys, Sungjae with 5-under, and D.J. with 3 or 4, whatever he was. There’s certainly scores out there.”

In the pre-tournament press conferences, McIlroy suggested he was going to play out of his comfort zone and take a more conservative approach from tee to green and there were elements of that throughout the round. When in trouble the 32-year-old often played for the middle of the greens and laid up on the par-5 15th when there was a tough decision to be made.

Unfortunately, two of his three bogeys in round one were rather careless with three-putts on six and 14 halting his momentum. As light began to fade while Rory made his way down the closing stretch he began to get loose but a clutch sand save on 18 appears to have kept him in the hunt and he is encouraged with how he is playing and hopes to see that reflected in his scores for the rest of the week.

“I thought I did really well. I hit it to a lot of the middle of the greens and made a lot of easy pars. It was very stress free for the most part. Hit a couple of loose iron shots at the end that I needed to try to get it up and down.

“Overall, again, I wish I could have gotten more out of the round, but it was pretty stress-free out there.

“I’m encouraged with how I played, so I’ve just got to try to get more out of the round tomorrow,” he added.

McIlroy gets his second round underway at 10:45 local time.

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