Rory McIlroy was all class in wearing his ‘Arnold Palmer’ tribute attire but it was straight to the Bay Hill practice range after a no-frills 72 on the opening day in his defence of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
A purposely selected Arnold Palmer look of dark blue shirt and thorn-coloured pants failed to inspire McIlroy who restored a little gloss to an otherwise dull display when he birdied two of his three closing holes.
The World No. 6’s frustration was clearly mirrored when he did a putter flip, only to drop his putter after what would have been a third straight birdie at the last lipped-out.
“Yeah, look it would have been nice to shoot under par,” he said.
“In the end, the putt at the last looked in the whole way but didn’t drop. But it’s tricky out there, the conditions are pretty tough, the course is drying out already.
“With the way the forecast is, it’s only going to get trickier as the week goes on.
“So, I’m three shots off the top-10, if I go out tomorrow and shoot something in the 60s, I’ll be right there for the weekend.”
McIlroy was out teeing-up just after noon and there were good signs when he birdied the par-4 third from just short of 10-feet. However, the tell-tale signs of what was to come soon surfaced when he dropped shots at both the fourth and fifth holes.
At the fourth, he had to chip-out after a wild drive left and then at the next, McIlroy took three shots to get up-and-down from just off the green.
He picked-up a second birdie of his round at the 12th but then gave two shots back in finding the water guarding the green at the 15th, while McIlroy was long in finding a back bunker on 15.
Finally, we saw some of the good form of late when he birdied the par-5 16th and then at the slightly downhill par-3 17th, he holed a 21-footer for a second straight birdie.
“I hit some wayward ones today but it’s nice to have all aspects, even if you’re off with your driving or iron play, I scrambled pretty well for the most part and I holed a couple of good putts when I needed to,” he said.
“So, I kept it together. It could have been worse, even par isn’t too bad. And as I said, I’ll regroup and try to go out there tomorrow morning and post a good score.
“The biggest challenge out there is just hitting fairways. The rough’s pretty penal this week so if I can just get the ball in play a little bit more and hit fairways, play the par-5s well, like you have to around here- the two key things, if I do those well over the next three days, I should still have a chance.”
Before finding the range, McIlroy was asked about his ‘Arnold Palmer’ outfit, revealing he nearly teed-up without wearing a cap.
“Arnie definitely wore it better. Nike wanted to do something pretty special for this week so it was just a little tribute to him,” said McIlroy.
“It’s a — he was a bit of a sort of style icon, I guess, and, yeah, we just wanted to do something that was a tribute to him and that picture of him in the navy top and these coloured pants is a very iconic photo, so just trying to sort of emulate that a bit.
“I was also thinking Arnie didn’t wear a cap so I would too but I just thought I would feel a bit uncomfortable, so I decided to wear a cap.”
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