Rory McIlroy left deflated as Masters frustrations continue

Four-time Major winner looked all at sea on his way to shooting a first round of 76

Rory McIlroy reacts after missing a putt on the 13th green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy reacts after missing a putt on the 13th green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 

You couldn’t imagine Rory McIlroy playing poker. His facial expressions would betray the deal handed him; and, in the first round of this latest quest at conquering Augusta National in search of a green jacket, the 31-year-old Northern Irishman’s body language was one that conveyed his utter exasperation and frustration with how so many facets of a game which seemingly have become alien.

A signed card with the digits 76 told it’s story, as his bid for glory was effectively undone before it got a chance to ever get going.

An out-body experience presented itself as he sought to manoeuvre a route through the cathedral pines.

Take your pick. There was his drive into the trees down the left of the seventh hole, where his recovery - showing imagination - still necessitated the ball hitting a spectator for it to stop its journey towards further trouble. The ball bounced back off the man’s calf into the rough.

“That was your dad you hit,” said his caddie, Harry Diamond.

“Yeah!” was all McIlroy could reply of realising the ball had struck his dad, Gerry, who promptly moved on without any apparent injury.

McIlroy with his dad Gerry after his tee shot hit him on the leg. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
McIlroy with his dad Gerry after his tee shot hit him on the leg. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

That incident pretty much summed up McIlroy’s journey on the front nine, as his third shot found the putting green but 40 feet short of the flag. When he two-putted for a bogey, it marked a third successive dropped shot - following bogeys on the sixth and seventh - and he required a birdie on the eighth to find some equilibrium. It didn’t last long, as a three-putt bogey on the ninth saw the world number 12 turn in 39 strokes, three-over.

Quick fixes

McIlroy - struggling with his game in the run-up to the tournament, to the point where veteran coach Pete Cowen was added to his team but with the caveat of not to expect any quick fixes - soon discovered that the homeward run would be no bed of roses as various parts of his game continued to desert him.

On the Par 4 11th, McIlroy’s drive was pushed right but he seemed to have got a break with his route to the green not blocked by any trees. However, McIlroy’s approach shot kicked left as it reached the green with the inevitable outcome of running down to the water hazard. Not for the first time, he reached for his cap and ran his hand through his hair. He did well to salvage a bogey, holing a 20-footer for the privilege.

But it was his approach to the Par 5 13th that summed up his lack of control. A perfect drive left McIlroy with a 214 yards approach to the green but from the moment he hit his 6-iron he was expecting the worse. McIlroy’s ball moved to the right and inevitably plunged into Rae’s Creek and his body language betrayed his inner-most turmoil as he wrapped his arm around his head with the club still in his hand. Another bogey would make its way onto the card, although a birdie on the 15th at least provided some hope as he faced into a battle to survive the cut.

“It was one of those days where I wasn’t very efficient,” admitted McIlroy, “but I hung in there, hit some good shots coming in and I could have hit a couple more birdies. It is not as if anyone is going really low out there so I will do a little practice and hopefully feel a little more comfortable (for the second round).”

He added: “Anytime you are working on things with your swing you are going to feel very different but it is not as if I haven’t done these things before. You get into these bad habits and that feels normal and then you get it back into a position where I have been a million times before and it just feels a little different. I think more than anything else around here it is about trusting that.”

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