Rory McIlroy 'very disappointed' after opening 74 at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Rory McIlroy 'very disappointed' after opening 74 at Arnold Palmer Invitational

PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy 'very disappointed' after opening 74 at Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO – Rory McIlroy was making his move. Recognizable from a great distance in his florescent orange, long-sleeve Nike zip-up, he strutted around the sixth green Thursday afternoon at Bay Hill and made an easy birdie to get to 1 under. He hit one of those trademark soaring, long-iron tee shots to inside 9 feet at the par-3 seventh but missed the putt. Momentum halted.

He continued to crush it off the tee but played his way into trouble, three-putting the par-4 10th for bogey and following with double bogey at the par-4 11th after hitting his approach in the water.

He finished the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 2-over 74, which included a wild bogey on 18 when his approach went flying off the rocks in front of the green to a bunker on the far left.

“Very disappointing,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t hit the ball really the way I wanted. I lost a few shots to the right, put myself out of position quite a few times. So, yeah, I was playing OK, I was managing it. And then I felt like I hit two good shots into 10 and walked off with a bogey there. And sort of a bit of a mental mistake (on 11), I sort of let that linger a bit and made double. … Even though I didn’t play my best, I should have shot something under par. Going to go work on a couple things on the range tonight and hopefully straighten it out for tomorrow.”

Disappointed as he was, McIlroy still stuck around the scorer’s tent and reacted in genuine shock as a reporter showed him a video of Cody Gribble touching an alligator on the sixth hole. That’s part of who McIlroy is as a somewhat accessible star in a game with so few of them remaining. He’s always appeared as such from afar and continues to do the best he can given the circumstances.

Earlier this week, McIlroy posted a photo on Twitter of the letter Arnold Palmer sent him after the Northern Irishman won the 2011 U.S. Open. Palmer’s advice? Don’t ever change who you are.

“I guess my demeanor, my aggressive play, how I carry myself,” McIlroy said, when asked what he thought Palmer meant. “I let myself down a few times in the past, but everyone does. It’s hard not to react to frustrating times or whatever. But I guess I’ve tried, since that letter, to be myself. I don’t really want to be anyone else. You’re born yourself, it would be an injustice to try and be anybody else. So try to be me and true to myself. They were good words of wisdom and words to live by.”

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