Rory McIlroy still upbeat despite his late double bogey at WGC Cadillac Championship
Rory McIlroy was looking on the bright side even though he suffered a disappointing finish to his opening round in the WGC-Cadillac Championship after a change of technique initially promised to pay instant dividends at Trump National Doral.
McIlroy finished with a double bogey for a one under par 71, five behind clubhouse leader Scott Piercy.
"I felt like I played pretty solid actually," the Ulsterman said. "I made a couple of mistakes, but apart from that I felt ball-striking wise it was a good day.
"My speed wasn't too good on the greens and I was leaving a lot of putts short. I guess it was to be expected as it's the first day competitively with a bit of a new grip, but I felt like it was pretty good.
"It's always disappointing to end the way I did. I just need to get out there and try and pick up those shots quickly again and try to start from there.
"I was giving myself plenty of chances hitting a few fairways and a lot of greens. Probably took a couple of my opportunities, but not a whole lot.
"The good stuff's in there, it's just a matter of not hitting shots like the one I hit on nine. I just overdid it.
"So it's all these little things. It's tiny margins and when you're playing well and you're sharp and you're really on your game, you don't make those mistakes. Right now, I'm struggling with that part of the game and I just need to tidy it up."
After missing the cut in the Honda Classic last week, McIlroy changed to a "cross-handed" putting method - with his left hand below the right on the grip - and vowed to stick with it regardless of the short-term outcome, with his bid to complete the career grand slam at the Masters just five weeks away.
The early signs were promising as McIlroy carded five birdies and two bogeys in his first 10 holes on the famed 'Blue Monster' course alongside world number one Jordan Spieth and USPGA champion Jason Day.
But the 26-year-old then three-putted the eighth for par - the same hole where he threw his three-iron into a lake in frustration 12 months ago - and found the water with his tee shot on the ninth.
The resulting double bogey meant McIlroy had to settle for an opening round of 71, five shots behind clubhouse leader Piercy, who carded eight birdies and two bogeys in a six-under-par 66.
Phil Mickelson, who has not won since claiming his fifth major title in the 2013 Open at Muirfield, was a shot behind, with England's Danny Willett and American Jason Dufner both on four under.
"I hit a lot of good shots, I was really pleased with the way the round went," Mickelson said.
"I probably let a few shots go early on, but I hit a lot of good shots, I was patient with the round and on my second nine I was able to make some birdies and capitalise on some of the shots."
Spieth carded five birdies and two bogeys to finish three under, with world number two Day faring the worst of the marquee group with a level-par 72.
Asked about playing alongside Day and McIlroy, Spieth said: "We had fun and for a while there were feeding off each other.
"It was nice to try and get into a rhythm together because the last few weeks have been a little rough on all three of us.
"I've been doing quite a bit of work. I don't feel great about the way I am striking the ball. I'm working really hard trying to develop patience through my swing and get into my right side.
"I have been transitioning a little quick and that leads to a shorter swing and more inconsistent ball striking."
Meanwhile, Spieth is not expecting to see another year of record scoring at the Masters next month.
The world No 1 romped to victory at last year's Masters as he posted a record-equalling score of 18 under par, although the greens in particular were softer and slower than in previous seasons.
He said: "The golf course looks very similar, it's even in better shape before the event than it has been the last couple of years. But the greens were very, very quick and very healthy, so I've got a feeling that they are not going to want 18 under to win again. I've got a feeling it might be playing a little more challenging this year."