'That’s sort of embarrassing' - Rory McIlroy's reaction after surprise Masters statistic revealed

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Ulsterman is six shots behind early leader Bryson DeChambeau at Augusta National

‘That’s sort of embarrassing, if it is’. That was Rory McIlroy’s response when he was told his one-under-par 71 on day one of the 2024 Masters was his best opening to the tournament in six years.

But he reluctantly took the positive from the surprise statistic as he attempted to fight off any disappointment he had after coming off the 18th tee at Augusta National.

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The 34-year-old enjoyed birdies on 12 and 14 to move to two-under, after heading to the turn on level par. A move up the leaderboard looked on the cards. Yet he bogeyed 17 and scrambled for par on the last to finish slightly deflated by his day’s work.

With playing partner Scottie Scheffler carding a six-under-par 66 and Bryson DeChambeau setting the early pace at seven-under, the world No2 already has his work cut out if he is to secure his maiden green jacket.

Reassuring the Holywood man that his 71 score was better than recent day-one postings over Augusta National was well-intentioned. When he finished second behind Scheffler in 2022, McIlroy shot an opening 73.

The four-time major winner recognised the need to remain positive - but he was still shocked to hear the data.

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‘Is it? That's sort of embarrassing, if it is’, was his reaction. ’But that's a good thing. Yeah, I guess. I kept it together. I stuck to my game plan. Didn't birdie two of the par-fives on the back, which was a little disappointing. But getting in in red numbers was decent.’

McIlroy carded four birdies in total on Thursday - including the third and eighth - but registered three bogeys as conditions proved difficult. The storm that was predicted and delayed the start never materialised, but the wind was an issue throughout the Ulsterman’s time out on the course.

Commenting on the conditions, with further gusts expected on Friday, McIlroy added: ‘It is very tough - just to commit to hitting certain shots, and even committing to reads on greens, because some of those exposed greens the wind can affect the reads on those.

‘It looks like it's going to be windy again Friday, so depending on what time we get back out there again, I'm going to go to the range here and hit a few balls and hopefully feel a little bit more comfortable with everything when we get started again.’

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McIlroy, Scheffler and Xander Schauffele (72) are the second last group out on Friday with a tee-time of 1.48pm local time (6.48pm BST). McIlroy’s best start to the Masters was recorded in 2011, when he carded an opening-day seven-under-par 65. That year he finished tied for 15th after a final day 80 denied him Masters glory.

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