McIlroy hoping for easier ride

Rory McIlroy rolled home a 15 foot par saver at the last to card a level par 72 in the first round of the Masters.

“That up and down on the last was pretty good and will make my dinner taste better,” he said, setting his sights on moving through the field in what he hopes will be easier conditions on Friday.

Given the easy pin positions and soft conditions the players faced on Thursday, he might be in for a rude awakening in the second round as the course dries out.

“I think we were playing a different course to the guys in the morning as it got really crusty and tricky,” said McIlroy who had two birdies and two bogeys on his Masters debut.

“I hit a lot of good shots which just missed greens and I was grinding to make pars. A 72 in the end is a pretty good day. I haven’t shot myself out of it and if I can go out in the morning and shoot something in the 60s I will be right there for the weekend.”

McIlroy was nervous on the first tee but got up and down for his par despite visiting sand with his tee shot and approach.

He said: “I wasn’t as nervous this morning as I was standing on the first tee at Carnoustie in my first Major Championship. But I still had a few butterflies and didn’t hit the best tee shot into the right trap. It was pretty big for me to get up and down to get my round going with a par.”

He then parred every hole to the sixth and birdied the seventh before bogeys at the eighth and 10th left him on one over par.

He fluffed another chip from the back of the 13th but got up and down for par there before getting back to level for the tournament with that birdie at the 16th. 

At the 18th he was forced to lay up after driving into a fairway bunker but he recovered brilliantly by pitching to 15 feet and then holing the uphill putt to get round in level par on a day when Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen all failed to match par.

“That’s what Major Championships are all about,” McIlroy added. “Padraig said it is almost easier to win a Major than a normal tournament as you don’t have to play that well but just have to stay patient and keep grinding out pars.

"By the end of the week if the course keeps drying out like this anything around the lead at the moment will be a good total.

“I just played myself into the round. Strung a few pars together. Par golf in Major Championships is usually pretty good. Tomorrow we will be playing the course a little softer and little easier and if I can go out and shoot something in the 60s I will be there for the weekend and I feel I am playing well enough to be there.”

What pleased him most about the round was the way he go the ball in the hole, though he was untidy around the greens at time and hit three poor chip shots.

“I was hitting good iron shots and they were trickling off fringes and they are tough up and downs round here,” he said. “To be able to up and down it and keep my momentum going was what pleased me most. I had a couple of chances for birdie I didn’t make so I will go to the putting green and work on my stroke.”