Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Rory McIlroy in Miami salvage job

Rory McIlroy, left, remained seven shots behind clubhouse leader Tiger Woods (AP)

Rory McIlroy kept his promise to "grind it out" better when the going got tough to post a first round of 73 in the £5.8million WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami on Thursday.

McIlroy was three over par with three holes of the Blue Monster course at Doral to play, but birdied two of them to finish seven shots behind playing partner and clubhouse leader Tiger Woods.

The world number one is now an approximate 18 over par for 98 completed holes in 2013, but it could have been worse but for a superb eagle at the par-five first hole, his 10th, with the swing problem he worked so hard at over the weekend clearly still an issue.

In contrast, Woods carded nine birdies in his 66 as the 65-strong field took advantage of calm conditions, with Ryder Cup team-mates Peter Hanson, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell all five under approaching the end of their rounds and Ian Poulter carding a 68.

Luke Donald, playing alongside McIlroy, returned a 70 despite two sixes on his card, while defending champion Justin Rose was three under with five to play.

McIlroy has dominated the golfing headlines this year, firstly for signing a multi-million pound deal with Nike and then missing the cut in his first event with his new equipment in Abu Dhabi. He then lost to Shane Lowry in the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play, before quitting the defence of his Honda Classic title last week after completing just eight holes of his second round.

On Wednesday McIlroy issued a full apology for his withdrawal, admitting the pain from a wisdom tooth and being in a "bad place mentally" was no excuse for walking off the course after playing those eight holes in seven over par.

Starting on the back nine on Thursday, McIlroy twice found sand on the 551-yard par-five 10th, but saved par and repeated the trick on the 11th and 12th before a wayward tee-shot on the par-three 13th resulted in a bogey.

Another bogey followed on the 14th before a first birdie of the day from nine feet on the 15th, but another dropped shot on the 18th took the Northern Irishman to the turn in 38.

McIlroy responded to another missed fairway on the par-five first by hitting a superb iron shot through the trees to the back edge of the green and holing from 18ft for an eagle three. However, that was instantly followed by a hat-trick of bogeys - two of them down to three-putting - and it took birdies on the seventh and eighth to rescue a respectable total.

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