Rory McIlroy showed his growing maturity when he dug deep into his reserves of patience to grind out a three over 73 in high winds in the opening round of the Honda Classic.
Staying cool: Rory McIlroy had to dig deep last night at Palm Beach
The Ulsterman was one of 62 players in the morning wave to shoot over par as winds gusting over 30mph buffeted the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens.
But while his round could easily have been a couple of shots better, the Holywood starlet was more than pleased not to blow himself out of contention on a day when Ernie Els shot 75, Ross Fisher 76 and defending champion Camilo Villegas a 79.
Reminded of the second round 80 that cost him his shot at Open glory at St Andrews last year, McIlroy said: "I learnt a lot from that. I always think about that day when I play in conditions like this and you have to realise that 74 or 75 is not a bad score.
"You have to hang in there, make pars, don't try and chase pins and hit it in the middle of the green and two putt.
"Even though that Friday at St Andrews was a bad day in my very short career, it did me the world of good for days like today and showed me that I have to just hang in there and grind it out."
A win here would see McIlroy overtake Tiger Woods as world No 5 and while he made just one birdie yesterday, he knows he will have every chance if he can card a level par round this afternoon.
Six strokes behind early pace-setter Spencer Levin, who shot a 67 in the first group of the day, McIlroy said: "There are 54 holes left and I am only six behind. I won't be trying to think about the leaderboard until the last day so as long as I go out tomorrow and shoot another number around 70, I won't be too far away."
A three-club wind, which McIlroy calculated at around 35 yards, made clubbing a dark art on the water-strewn resort course with an exacting par of 70.
And while McIlroy got off to a great with a birdie from 15 feet at the 10th, he found putting extremely difficult.
After missed greens led to bogeys at the 12th, 15th, first and sixth, he said: "You are hitting putts that would be right edge with no wind, but with the wind really blowing you had to hit that putt outside the left. You just had to trust in that and be decisive.”
Graeme McDowell was three over par through 12 holes.
Leona Maguire stormed up the leaderboard in the second qualifying round of the Spanish Ladies Open Amateur Championship to claim third spot in the matchplay draw.
The Slieve Russell girl posted a level par 72 yesterday for a 36-hole total of 146. Leona's twin sister Lisa also made it into the knock-out phase.
After an opening 79 Danielle McVeigh, the 2009 British stroke-play champion from Royal County Down had to produce a stunning performance yesterday to stay in contention, firing a stunning 71 yesterday to sweep through on 150 — and she now meets Lisa Maguire.