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'I made too many mistakes': Rory McIlroy explains putting problems after opening round at the Masters

 

Rory McIlroy bogeyed both of his final two holes to finish his first round at the Masters one over par.
Rory McIlroy bogeyed both of his final two holes to finish his first round at the Masters one over par.
Putt it there: Rory McIlroy at the second green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta yesterday
Tiger Woods
Rory McIlroy's Masters shoes.

By Phil Casey

It wasn't so much back to the drawing board as off to the putting green as Rory McIlroy looked to iron out the wrinkles that cost him dearly on day one of the Masters.

A frustrated McIlroy left himself facing an uphill struggle to win the Masters and complete the career grand slam following an opening one over par 73 at Augusta National.

It leaves the world number three seven behind overnight leaders Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, who has Portrush man Ricky Elliott on his bag.

McIlroy was two over par for the day after bogeys on the 10th and 11th but rallied superbly to birdie the 13th, 15th and 16th, only to drop shots on the last two holes.

The last 13 Masters champions were all inside the top 10 after the opening round and McIlroy found himself outside the top 40 at the time of signing his card.

"I felt the course was there," McIlroy said.

"It's soft. There's not much wind. I made five birdies, that wasn't the problem. I just made too many mistakes. And I'm making mistakes from pretty simple positions, just off the side of the green, 17 and 18 being prime examples of that.

"I'm going to go to the putting green right now and try to figure this out, just sort of reads more than anything else. I over-read a few early on, and then I started to under-read them coming in.

"I think just whenever the greens are a little slower, they don't break as much. The greens are maybe two or three feet slower than they usually are, just because it's been so soft and the rain.

"They will get faster as the week goes on, so it's just a matter of adjusting."

McIlroy's 73 was his worst opening round since a 74 in 2010 and the Ulsterman added: "You know you're going to have chances. There's birdie opportunities.

"I can accept mistakes if I'm trying and it's not a mental error, but six bogeys out there is a little too many and I'm just going to need to tidy that up over the next few days."

There were no such problems for two of his European Ryder Cup colleagues with Spain's John Rahm handily placed after an opening 69.

Late last night Ian Poulter was also riding high as was another of golf's biggest stars, perhaps the biggest of them all.

Two years after believing his career was over, Tiger Woods put himself in contention for a first major title since 2008.

Woods had also contended for the last two majors of the year and carried on where he left off, carding four birdies and two bogeys in an opening 70 to lie a shot off the clubhouse lead shared by playing partner Rahm, former champion Adam Scott and South African debutant Justin Harding.

"I thought I hit a lot of good shots and if I missed, I missed in the correct spots and had some of the simpler up and downs because of that," Woods said.

"I missed a few (putts) for sure, misread a couple and hit one bad one at six but other than that a good solid day."

Coincidentally, Woods shot 70 in the first round of each of his first three Masters victories and was 33rd after an opening 74 in his 2005 triumph.

Meanwhile, at the start of last week Corey Conners was not even in the Masters, but 11 days later he found himself sharing a tee with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and high on the leaderboard.

Conners survived a six-man play-off to qualify for the Valero Texas Open last Monday and went on to win his first PGA Tour title in San Antonio to secure the final place in the 87-man field for the year's first major.

The 27-year-old, who carded rounds of 80 and 69 on his Masters debut as an amateur in 2015, was in the first group out at 0830 local time (1330 BST) yesterday and fired an eagle and three birdies in an opening 70 to continue his remarkable run of form.

"It's been wild, definitely unexpected but I'm playing some good golf and really excited to be here and honoured to be playing in the Masters and just trying to keep riding the good play," Conners said. "I had a great day out there today, a lot of fun, and hit some quality shots and was able to get a couple under par, which was very pleasing.

"It's been a bit crazy the last week but everything's been great and I'm just trying to really enjoy the experience."

Part of the experience was being on the first tee as honorary starters Nicklaus and Player hit tee shots on the opening hole, with Conners teeing off a few minutes later alongside Andrew Landry and Adam Long.

"It was pretty cool, I was able to stand on the back of the tee and watch them tee off and really appreciate what they have done for the game of golf and it was a really cool experience to be part of," Conners added.

"I just tried to soak it in and really enjoy it.

"And then being in the first group following them, that was pretty special as well.

"My playing partners, Adam and Andrew, are both good friends, so we're very comfortable out there and we had a great time."

Conners was one over par after 12 holes but birdied the 13th and 14th and then holed from eight feet for an eagle on the par-five 15th before three-putting the last.

"I think - everything's still high - I'm just having a lot of positive emotions," he added.

"I didn't really sleep much at the beginning of the week, I felt energised with positive things that have happened.

"This is a great place to be and I'm just really enjoying it," he added.

Brooks Koepka was the man enjoying the evening sunshine in Georgia, moving on to five under to lead after 14, while his countryman Dustin Johnson was also handily placed on two-under.

A brief nine-way tie for the lead was broken when three-time major winner Koepka birdied the 13th to reach four under par.

And he was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Poulter, who converted his third birdie in four holes on the 16th.

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