Rory McIlroy hit his own father with a wayward shot as he carded his worst ever first round score at the Masters.
The four-time winner limped home in 76 to be 11 shots behind leader Justin Rose. And the lowlight of his round was mis-hitting his approach shot wide of the seventh green which his hit Gerry McIlroy despite his shouts of fore. McIlroy Senior joked: “I should ask for an autographed glove.”
The world No.12 responded: “I don’t know if he needs a signed glove. I think that’s the least of his worries. I think he just needs to go and put some ice. Maybe I’ll autograph a bag of frozen peas for him. “
But there was nothing funny about the rest of McIlroy’s performance in the first Major of the year. He recently added Yorkshireman Pete Cowen to his coaching staff but this was the same old story as his seventh attempt to complete his career Grand Slam at Augusta is already over.
This year is the tenth anniversary of the 21-year-old Ulsterman shooting a closing 80 when he had entered the final round leading by four shots.
McIlroy, 31, has not won a Major since the 2014 US PGA Championship and he is without a win of any description since November 2019.
McIlroy, who carded six bogeys and two birdies, said: “It’s pretty obvious how crusty the greens are getting and it was tricky to leave the ball below the pin and give yourself a lot of looks for birdies,” McIlroy said after a round containing six bogeys and two birdies.
“I’m quite encouraged with the way I hit it on the way in. I hit some loose shots out there but after the six iron in the water on 13 I hit some really good shots.
“I’m going to go to the range to work on it a little bit more but it was just one of those days where I wasn’t very efficient with my scoring.”
By contrast, Rose equalled Jack Nicklaus’s record of leading after the first round of the Masters for a fourth time with his sensational 65.
The 2013 US Open champion is down to world No.41 after struggling for form recently and pulling out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back spasm. But he played his final 11 holes in a ridiculous nine-under par to lead by four shots going into the second round.
“I guess the good news is that I don’t know what happened,” said the former world No.1. “That is often when you play your best golf. To be nine-under for my last 11, you can never see that at Augusta National. But it happened because I didn’t panic. Coming back to play in the spring, I was playing on the memory banks.”
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman were the only other players to break 70 with their 69s. That score was tied 18th after the first round in easier conditions for the last Masters in November.
Most other big names struggled on the Augusta National course which was running hard and fast again back in April.
Lee Westwood’s bid to break another Nicklaus record as the oldest ever Masters winner came to a swift end with a opening 78 – his second worst score in his 20th Masters appearance. And world No.1 Johnson, who dropped only four shots in 72 holes in the autumn, made three bogeys and a closing double in his 74.
Sergio Garcia, who shot a 76, said: “I fought hard, but I don’t know, I feel like just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield, like a 12-round match. I need to go home and rest.”
Paul Casey was to three-under after eagling No.8 but made five bogeys in his final seven holes to card a 73. “It was like a rubbish rollercoaster,” he said. “I wouldn’t pay for a ride on that.”