McIlroy eases mounting pressure with solid par round
On the par-four sixth, a barefooted Tiger Woods plays from the water hazard after a hooked tee shot and manages to make a miraculous par. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
A bogey at the last left a sour taste but Rory McIlroy still eased the mounting pressure on his shoulders when he survived a shaky run through the Bear Trap to shoot his first par round with his Nike clubs and open his Honda Classic defence with a solid 70.
As Graeme McDowell built on the confidence he gained from last week’s quarter-final appearance in the Accenture Match Play with a three under 67 that left him just four shots behind pace-setter Camilo Villegas (64) of Colombia, McIlroy finally matched par with his new clubs following that disconcerting brace of 75s in Abu Dhabi five weeks ago.
Beaten by Shane Lowry in the first round in Tucson, the 23-year old was not at his very best on a soft golf course, hitting just seven of 14 fairways, 13 greens and taking 30 putts.
But while he was disappointed with his finishing six, he saw enough positive signs to give him confidence that he will be ready to challenge for a green jacket in the Masters next month.
“It wasn’t too eventful, two birdies, two bogeys,” McIlroy said. “I felt okay out there, not great. I guess this golf course, its the sort of place that you dont really go that far under par anyway, so youve just got to stay patient.
“It would have been nice to finish off the round a bit better, but I can come back out tomorrow and hopefully give myself a lot of chances for birdies.”
Confessing that he struggled to get the pace of the greens, McIlroy added: “I think if I’d been playing well, or playing the way I know I can, theres something in the mid 60s out there.
“Hopefully the weather is okay tomorrow and I can go out and try to shoot a good score and put myself in position for the weekend. I guess as well when you’re working on your swing a lot, its hard to commit to the shot that you need to play every time.
“So just a bit more work on the swing and try to get a bit more comfortable with that and should be okay. But I felt like I hit the ball okay today, not as good as I can, but its getting there.”
Watched by former Shamrock Rovers forward Stephen Grant and pal Shane Lowry, who paid $690 to enter a local mini tour event and shot a one under 71 to Grant’s 65, McIlroy opened with five pars before a bunkered approach to the tough sixth led to his first bogey.