McIlroy content with solid start and lauds Scheffler’s efficiency

Peter Finnan

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Peter Finnan

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Rory McIlroy heaped praise on the clinical nature of Scottie Scheffler who sauntered into early Masters contention with a flawless round of 66.

The world number one looked in ominous form during the opening round at Augusta National, carding six birdies and more importantly no bogeys while battling tricky 30mph gusts.

He did get a stroke of fortune on 13 en route to one of his six birdies but the 2022 Masters winner was machine-like, playing the four par fives in three-under and he capitalised on his good break on 13 with terrific iron shots into 15, 16 and 17 to set up a pair of birdies and he is just one shot behind early leader Bryson DeChambeau.

McIlroy, kept pace with Scheffler for much of the day at two-under through 14 but a scrappy finish saw him fall five behind his playing partner as he signed for a 71 that included three bogeys.

“I think when they’re playing with you it’s hard not to notice. Scottie does such a good job of — it doesn’t look like it’s 6-under par, and then at the end of the day it’s 6-under par. He’s just so efficient with everything,” McIlroy said.

“If you look at Scottie compared to the rest of the field, the amount of bogey-free rounds he plays and he shoots is phenomenal, and that’s the secret to winning major championships and winning big-time golf tournaments is more limiting the mistakes rather than making a ton of birdies.

“I made three bogeys today, which is fine out there in these conditions, but just need to tidy it up a little bit to try to keep up with him.”

McIlroy was drawn alongside Scheffler and Xander Schauffele for the opening round of his tenth attempt at completing the career grand slam and he feels that playing with the best player in the world is a good omen.

“You just focus on your own game. It’s great to play alongside Scottie, who is the best player in the world right now, and to see how he is getting himself around the golf course.

“In that way, it’s a good thing. When I saw the draw, playing with Xander and Scottie, two of the best players in the world, it was a nice draw, and looking forward to being out there with them again tomorrow.”

The four-time major winner has left himself with work to do if he is to end a near decade-long wait for an elusive fifth major, trailing DeChambeau by six shots but he insists he is still in the mix.

It is McIlroy’s lowest first round score at the Masters since 2018 and despite a scrappy finish he was content.

“It’s satisfying in one sense because it is a decent start I felt like I could have been two or three better. I’m definitely not out of the tournament and chasing anything tomorrow. I’m playing beside Scottie who is obviously one of the leaders so I can keep an eye on what he is doing so overall a solid day’s work.

“I felt like I did a good job of executing the gameplan I reset well after the bogey on two and stuck to my gameplan I didn’t go chasing it and the way the conditions were today you really couldn’t. You had to be as disciplined as possible. Anything under par is a decent score but I will rue the last four holes.”

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