McIlroy Has Work To Do After 'Untidy' Start To Career Grand Slam Attempt

Rory McIlroy stuck in first gear after a series of errors halts any significant progress on day one of The Masters

Rory McIlroy Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy’s quest for a Green Jacket got off to a slow start on Thursday, as the Ulsterman made a series of "untidy" mistakes en route to a level-par 72.

It’s a round that McIlroy admits is two or three shots short of where he’d ideally like to be, although he’s not pressing the panic button and remains optimistic that he can climb the leaderboard as he goes in search of the career Grand Slam over the weekend.

"I missed a couple of tee shots left on 7 and 17 that I sort of got penalized for, like an untidy bogey on 3, a three-putt on 11," said a frustrated McIlroy. "So just stuff like that. It's not disastrous, but I just need to sort of tidy it all up."

McIlroy can boast seven top-10 finishes in the past nine years at Augusta National, and on a recent scouting trip to the famous venue it was revealed that he’d got pretty hot with his putter.

Today, though, the five-time Major winner struggled to get out of first gear, trading three birdies on the front nine with a bogey and a momentum-sapping double.

McIlroy struggles Masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"I didn't feel like I was too far away today," he added. "I made five birdies but just a couple too many mistakes on the card. 

"Obviously you see Sam [Burns] playing beside me goes four under for the first four. You've got three guys at seven-under on the leaderboard. So, yeah, it's hard to stay patient when you just want to try to get yourself in there."

The 33-year-old has always been one to back himself in tough conditions, but with heavy rain forecast at Augusta National over the weekend, it might make his task of making up ground more difficult.

"I think when you're chasing, it's probably the harder the better because it plays easier for everyone," McIlroy added. "The more difficult the course is, I think that's probably favorable conditions for chasing a little bit or trying to catch up.

"I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Hopefully we don't get affected by it too much, and we can get out there and play 18 holes uninterrupted, I can shoot something in the mid-60s and get myself back in it."

McIlroy surprised quite a few people when he popped a couple of ear phones in to do the 'walk and talk', in what has been a first for The Masters and Augusta National.

As the sport tries to engage with fans more, golf is following other sports in speaking to players during competition – and McIlroy was only too happy to share his insights with the television audience.

"I thought it would be a cool thing to do. I did it in Austin and didn't feel like it took me out of my rhythm in any way or made me think about things too much," McIlroy explained.

"So it's nice to provide the audience at home a little bit more insight into what's going on out here. I think with the previous chairman, he definitely brought things forward.

"Then I think since Chairman Ridley has come along, he's really tried to push the envelope as well. So I think Augusta have a great balance of blending that history and that tradition but also making sure we're keeping up with the times."

McIlroy, close friends with Tiger Woods, also revealed that he’d love to hear the six-time Masters champion mic’d up during play. However, when asked whether he thought that was a possibility, he laughed, "zero chance".

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.