McIlroy’s Grand Slam bid on life support again. Can he revive it?

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy opened his ninth bid for the career grand slam with his lowest opening round at the Masters since 2018. But boy, it doesn’t feel like it!

Doctor give this man a shot of adrenaline, and a kick up the backside while you’re at it.

This was a level-par 72 that had all the hallmarks and feelings of a stomach churning 76. It might as well be when you have given Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Viktor Hovland seven shots with 54 holes to go.


It was supposed to be different this time, last year’s Sunday 64 had banished the demons of yesteryear, McIlroy could bounce and swagger around the Augusta slopes and turn his head around each corner without being met with a shuddering memory of what might have been.

Nope. It was more of the same, it was sweaty, rigid, nervy and jittery from beginning to end.

Yesterday’s opening round was a carbon copy of what we have seen before from Rory at the Masters. Snookering himself early on only to drag himself back into the infamous ‘if he can birdie…’ territory, before ultimately shooting himself in the foot again.

Looking at it bluntly, the bogeys on 3 and 11 and the double on 7 were brought about by unforced errors all of his own doing.

When McIlroy is feeling the heat his bad shot is a left off the tee. The tone was set from minute one as he dragged his opening drive into the left pines and did very well to escape with a par.

A left miss paved the way for a double-bogey on seven after a comedy of errors which arguably ended his chances after little more than 2 hours of play.

Whether it be a Josh Cullen pass, a Paul Durkin kickout or a McIlroy missed putt, sport can be measured in moments and the seventh hole told what kind of day he was going to endure.

McIlroy hasn’t opened his Masters campaign with a round in the 60s since a 69 in 2018 but right from the outset it never looked like he would go sub 70.

A 69 was what he needed given the scoring and depth of quality ahead of him and his inability to carve out a 70 or 71 looks costly.

McIlroy admitted in his pre-tournament press conference that he needed to start bright with Augusta no place to go chasing jackets.

The 33-year-old also alluded to the weather which looks set to cause havoc with tournament proceedings as a hinderance to anybody who would be left chasing early doors.

This makes his bid to become just the sixth golfer to win all four majors all the more unlikely. Almost impossible.

Magnolia Lane was inundated with a rich lode of story even before the tournament began. Tiger, LIV, the potential for a steak slider induced food fight at the Champions Dinner. But the headline act, always the headline act was Rory McIlroy. Never has an international star captured the imagination and tugged on the heartstrings of a patriotic American crowd.

It felt like destiny. Destiny’s Child more like.

Normally sitting on level-par after the first 18 wouldn’t be near fatal. Usually the top stars are sprinkled all over the leaderboard until the proverbial cream rises to the top come Sunday. However, the depth of talent already ahead of McIlroy is staggering.

14 major champions inside the top-25. While seemingly everyone got out of the blocks early, McIlroy has had yet another false start in the big race.

Potential McIlroy 2023 Masters reels on social media will play out to the tune of ‘Another Love’ by Tom Odell rather than ‘We are the Champions.’

The dream is hanging by a thread.

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.