Struggling McIlroy continues to fight his demons on the Blue Monster
Rory McIlroy watches a tee shot anxiously as Tiger Woods looks on during the opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral yesterday. photograph: scott halleran/getty images
Rory McIlroy is glad he has another three rounds to find some light at the end of the tunnel after he failed to take advantage of perfect scoring conditions at a toothless TPC Blue Monster yesterday.
As Graeme McDowell got off to a dream start, carding six birdies in an immaculate 66 to share the clubhouse lead with Tiger Woods, Swede Freddie Jacobson and playing partner Sergio Garcia, the struggling world number one McIlroy hit just three fairways in a forgettable round of one over 73.
While he insisted he wants to maintain a good relationship with the press, the Holywood man walked straight past waiting reporters, stopping only momentarily to give his views to Sky Sports television.
“It was a bit of a struggle to be honest,” said the disappointed 23-year old, who had walked off the course after completing just eight holes of his second round in last week’s Honda Classic.
“I hit some good shots, hit some not so good shots. But as Ive been saying all week, this is a work in progress and I’m working at it and I’m staying patient. I’ve got another three rounds here to try and work on it a bit more and shoot a few good scores and we’ll see what happens.”
Playing partner Woods conjured up nine birdies in a 66 to outscore McIlroy by seven shots and even the struggling Luke Donald beat the world number one by three in the day’s stellar threeball.
“It was as easy as it gets around this place today,” said Woods, who narrowly failed to pick up another shot at the ninth for a ten-birdie haul that would have equalled his career best.
“The wind wasn’t up like it usually is at Doral and it was coming out of the easier direction. That explains why there are 50-something guys under par.”
McIlroy battled his swing all day and showed few glimpses of the brilliance that saw him include a second major triumph among five wins worldwide in an all-conquering 2012 campaign.
For the first time in his career, he did a takeaway rehearsal before every shot but fluffed his lines when it came to the real thing, three-putting twice and hitting just 11 greens in regulation.
He went to the turn in two over with three bogeys and a birdie on his card before a spectacular eagle three at the first got him back to level par.
But the demons soon returned as he bogeyed the next three holes and while he birdied the seventh from seven feet and picked up another shot at the par-three eighth, it was a day to forget.
“It was nice to sneak in a couple of birdies on the last three holes and make it look somewhat respectable, even though everyone seems to be going pretty low out there today,” McIlroy added.
“It was a day where it was perfect scoring conditions, not much wind, and you could really shoot a good one.”
McDowell got off a great start, following a tap-in birdie at the par-five first with a 13 footer at the second and a seven footer at the sixth to get to three under.
He then picked up another birdie from 12 feet at the 11th to keep the leaders in his sights and after missing a six-foot chance at the 12th he drained a 30-footer at the 14th and a 12 -footer at the 17th to join Woods and Jacobson at the top of the leaderboard.
McIlroy was making his way back to his room at that stage to reflect on a round that summed up his year so far. The 23-year old got off to a slow start and had to get up and down from greenside sand at the 10th after bunkering his tee shot right and flirting with water with his lay up.
He was bunkered in two at the par-five 12th but hit his recovery heavy and had to settle for par before dropping shots at the next two.
His head dropped when he pulled his approach to the 207-yard 13th and lipped out from eight feet. Then at the 14th, he bunkered his tee shot left and took three to get down from just left of the green, misreading his nine-footer for par.
A birdie at the par-three 15th, where he hit a glorious 172-yard tee shot to nine feet, gave him some respite. But while it was almost news that he didn’t walk off this time as he played the 18th, he left the green two over for his round.
He’d managed to hit three of seven fairways and only four greens in his opening nine holes but it got worse on the back nine before those late birdies turned an ugly score into a semi-respectable one.
Pádraig Harrington birdied the first from 11 feet but didn’t make another significant putt on the front nine. A succession of bogeys saw him slip to four over par in the later stages of his round.