After all the great fanfare, McIlroy fluffs his lines on opening day
Nope, what there was was McIlroy saying things like: “The VRS Covert driver. It’s a little different, which I liked from the start. It has the cavity back which is a new design in the world of golf.
“As soon as I hit it I knew it was going into the bag straight away. My ball speed was up, my numbers were good, spin rate, everything. And you know, I was hitting it further. I thought I hit it far before but this is totally taking it to a new level. So that’s great.”
And there’s no doubt that it will be. It just wasn’t yesterday.
McIlroy only hit five fairways all morning, admitting that he couldn’t trust enough in his new driver to release it fully given the stiff breeze they were playing in. He lost a drive out of bounds to the left on the third hole – his 12th – that cannoned off a tree and into a car-park, causing him to have to go back to the tee.
That brought one of the two double bogeys on his card, the other coming at the short 15th where he sprayed his only really poor iron shot of the day 40 yards to the right of the green.
This, too, shall pass, of course. McIlroy said afterwards that his poor score had as much to do with the rust brought on by eight weeks away from competition as any lack of comfort with his new clubs. No fair mind would argue with him there and anyone who did could reasonably be pointed towards the name of Thorbjorn Olesen at the upper reaches of the leaderboard.
Olesen is the 23-year-old Dane who has also just signed signed up with Nike, albeit to an understandably tiny fraction of the fanfare that accompanied McIlroy.
He had his first official dance with his new clubs last week in South Africa and, without anyone making an issue of it, he also shot a 75 in his first round. It didn’t get a lot better as the week went on – he finished with only two behind him, never hitting more than half his fairways in any round.
Yesterday, Olesen hit eight out of 14 fairways, found 13 greens in regulation and putted like he was aiming at a manhole. He signed for a 68 and starts the second round a shot off the lead.
It’ll get better for McIlroy too. Nike will hope it does sooner rather than later.