He's not out of the woods yet! McIlroy fails to hit top form but posts solid start in Texas in his final preparation ahead of The Masters
, including a
second major at the US PGA Championship.
Lost ball: Rory McIlroy, looking in the woods for a wayward shot, has had just one top-10 finish in 2013
Back in form McIlroy hits his second shot on the 14th in the first round of the Valero Texas Open today
But with caddie JP Fitzgerald advising him that he needed more competitive rounds under his belt, McIlroy travelled to San Antonio and carded an opening level-par 72 to lie five shots behind Matt Bettencourt, who carded a 67 to overtake long-time clubhouse leaders Padraig Harrington and Billy Horschel.
Starting from the 10th on the difficult Oaks Course – the fourth most difficult on the PGA Tour last year – McIlroy opened with four pars before picking up a birdie on the par-five 14th and another on the short par-four 17th.
However, a bogey on the 18th after finding the water was the first of three in succession which dropped him back to one over par, not what the world No 2 was looking for after speaking of the need to cut out 'silly mistakes' in his rounds.
The 23-year-old stopped the rot with pars at the third and fourth and then birdied the next two holes after pitching to five feet each time, but carded his fourth bogey of the day on the ninth.
Comeback: McIlroy, chipping onto the 18th green, took part in the Texas Open in a bid to reverse his poor form
THE FULL LEADERBOARD
The PGA Tour is back in San Antonio this week for the Texas Open, where Rory McIlroy will be hoping to fine-tune his game ahead of the Masters.
Ben Curtis took the title last year and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.
Three-time major winner Harrington had
also bogeyed his final hole, the 18th; the only blemish on his card
caused by three putts from 35ft.
The 41-year-old won the Open Championship in 2007, successfully defended
it the following year and then won the US PGA Championship a few weeks
later, but has not tasted victory on one of the major tours since – his
last win came on the Asian Tour in 2010.
Harrington admitted he had enjoyed his fair share of good luck in cold
and blustery conditions, with his only bogey caused by three-putting the
'It was cold and that really does affect the ball,' the Dubliner told
reporters. 'I didn't have a great ball-striking round but my misses were
either in the right places or I got slightly fortunate and then got up
'I'm not walking away from this round thinking “wow, I hit a number of
pure golf shots”, or anything like that. It was more mental fortitude
than ball striking.
Right alongside: McIlroy's playing partner, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, went round in one under par
'This morning, early on, it was a battle of survival. Last week back in
Ireland it was snowing and I didn't feel this cold. There was a feeling
of “let's just hang in there and stay in the tournament”. Sometimes that
lets you play a little bit more within yourself.'
Anyone winning this week will have to defy the odds if they want to also claim a Green Jacket at the Masters, however.
Only two players have won the week prior to the Masters and then gone on
to win in Augusta; Sandy Lyle in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1988
and Phil Mickelson in the BellSouth Classic in 2006.
Getting to grips: McIlroy, teeing off at the second hole today, needed to get used to his new Nike equipment