Forget all of his early-season struggles, which included a badly missed cut in Abu Dhabi and an early walk-off at the Honda Classic. Rory McIlroy stepped onto the grounds at Augusta National Golf Club this week and proclaimed that the “real” golf season had started – the major season that runs from the start of April to the end of August.
If that’s true, unfortunately, his Opening Day at the Masters was something of a wash. Playing in Thursday’s penultimate group, he got off to the start he needed (nearly holing a chip for eagle at No. 2), and he struck the ball well enough to stay into red numbers. But two three-putts on the back nine hampered him, and five bogeys proved way too many in a sloppy effort that only netted him a round of level-par 72.
“I gave myself plenty of opportunities,” said McIlroy, who hit nine fairways and 14 greens – one more green than Tiger Woods would hit – but took two extra shots to get to the clubhouse. Tee to green, his game appeared to be pretty solid; he took care of the par 5s, which one has to do at Augusta, making birdies at three of them. But overall, he didn’t get very much out of a round that should have been better.
His three-putt bogey at the par-4 17th was his fourth bogey in his final nine holes, and it led him to toss his putter at his bag in disgust. Usually, an opening 72 wouldn’t harm a player so much at the Masters, but McIlroy’s number came on a day when 33 players broke par.
“I was 2 under and everything felt good,” said McIlroy, who was looking to capitalize better on his runner-up finish at last week’s Valero Texas Open. “(But) every time I got a bit of momentum, I took a step back. . . . I hit the ball very well. It’s just a matter of taking the opportunities and limiting the mistakes.”