Tentative McIlroy still searching for his game

Opening 73 leaves Ulster golfer nine shots off the lead

 Rory McIlroy  hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club  in Humble, Texas. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Fri, Mar 29, 2013, 10:16

Rory McIlroy was left cursing silly mistakes as his woes continued at the Shell Houston Open, where he finished round one nine shots behind leader DA Points.

Points shot an eight-under-par 64 to lead by one from fellow Americans Cameron Tringale and John Rollins, while English trio Brian Davis, Lee Westwood and Greg Owen were all in the top 10.

But there was no upturn in fortunes for McIlroy, whose poor form this year has seen him surrender the world number one spot to Tiger Woods.

He carded a one-over-par round of 73 for a share of 88th and in danger of failing to make the weekend once again.

“I kept in good spirits,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t get too down on myself. It would have been great to finish at even par.”

McIlroy was three over at the turn after finding water at the eighth and carding a double-bogey seven.

A superb approach for birdie at 10 got him back on track and he birdied the 12th and 13th to recover to level par. But he found a bunker at the 14th and, though he clawed back the resulting dropped shot at the first attempt, another bogey at the 17th left him one over.

“I think if I just eliminate the stupid mistakes, you know, I made double on a par five on the front nine and made a couple of silly bogeys,” added McIlroy.

“I’m still a bit tentative out there on the golf course and perhaps not committing to my shots fully.

“It takes time, it takes rounds, and hopefully another three rounds this week and some good scores will set me up well.”

Much has been made of McIlroy’s change of equipment this season, something with which leader Points may be able to identify.

Points began his tournament with five successive birdies after starting his round at the 10th, and added another before the turn.

Three more followed on a front nine marred only by a bogey at the fifth as he finished one shot ahead of Tringale and Rollins, who each carded seven birdies in unblemished rounds.

Afterwards, Points revealed he had been using his mum’s old putter — which he used when he first turned pro — in an attempt to turn around some bad form on the green.

“It’s just a really good-looking putter, and I brought it with me this week because I just had been putting so bad,” said Points. “I thought maybe I’ll pull this old putter out of the garage and maybe it will have some magic in it. Sure enough, today it did.”

Jason Kokrak and Argentina’s double major winner Angel Cabrera shared fourth on six under with Davis, former Ryder Cup player Jeff Overton and Steve Wheatcroft a shot further back.

Westwood and Owen were among a large group sharing ninth place on four under.

Westwood found the water twice at the eighth — one of three bogeys in his round - and said: “I must have the worst par fives of anyone this year. It was like dropping four shots really. A 68 is as high has I could have shot.”

Phil Mickelson shot a level-par 72 while defending champion Hunter Mahan was two over.