Error-strewn round as Rory McIlroy endures frustrating start to Masters

Rory McIlroy watches his drive on the fourth hole during the first round at the Masters.
Rory McIlroy watches his drive on the fourth hole during the first round at the Masters.
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Rory McIlroy carded an opening-round one-over-par 73 as his latest bid for golf’s grand slam got off to a frustrating start at Augusta National.

Two late bogeys on holes 17 and 18 proved costly in the opening Major of the season - just when the 2019 Players Championship winner looked to be finding his grove.

Two bogeys on the front nine - including the first hole - were cancelled out with birdies at three and eight as McIlroy made the turn for home on level par.

Successive bogeys at 10 and 11 then threatened to ruin proceedings for the Holywood ace, before three birdies in four holes saw him move to one-under for the day with just the last two holes to play.

It was just what his round needed in the soaring temperatures.

However, two late misplaced drives cooled the momentum McIlroy was building as he was made to settle for a plus-one opening-round score.

The 29-year-old’s wayward drive off the first tee, coupled with a second shot that smacked against a tree before rebounding on to the fairway, paved the for a bogey on the opening hole.

He immediately had the chance to rectify the early setback with a great birdie chance at the par-five second.

That opportunity went begging, before the Ulsterman got himself back on level terms with a birdie at the par-four third, following a monsterous drive.

A short putt for a birdie three at five offered the first chance of the day to get into the red for his round, yet McIlroy missed.

It was a golden opportunity in front of the massive crowds packed around the eastern quarter of the Augusta National course, with the ever-popular Tiger Woods and Jon Rahm in the group in front.

And those fans were left flabbergasted at the par-three sixth when the four-time Major winner’s fine tee shot rolled back down off the green, setting up his second bogey of the day.

The 570-yard par-five eighth provided the perfect opportunity to get back level, with McIlroy driving the green in two before his eagle chance came up agonisingly short.

But holes 10 - the scene of his dramatic Masters collapse in 2011 - and 11 won’t be ones he’ll remember too fondly, with double bogeys at both taking him to plus-two for the day.

McIlrory has embraced a regime of meditation and mind training in the build up to the opening Major of the season.

And that approach will have proven handy at the par-three 12th when a birdie chance went astray, frustratingly denying him the chance to immediately respond and keep pace with playing partner Rickie Fowler, whose birdie moved him to one-under.

Unfazed, however, the recent Players Championship winner showed the form that has seen him record seven top-10 finishes already on the PGA Tour this year as he birdied the par-five, dog-leg left 13th.

His drive eliminated the hazards tight on the left, while his second shot made a mockery of Rae’s Creek positioned to the front of the green.

It was a bit of momentum McIlroy’s round needed, and he proceeded to birdie the par-five 15th and 16th (par three) to get into minus figures for the first time.

But just as he appeared to be making a charge deep into his round, the 17th got in the way, with a stray tee shot forcing him wide to the right and a short putt for par following his recovery proving his downfall.

And the 18th proved just as troublesome, with another missed fairway from the tee punished as McIlroy closed his round with a five at the par four.