Rory McIlroy sounded like he was bracing himself for another winless week after shooting a 69 to leader Adam Scott’s course record 62 in the first round of the Australian Open.
“It is hard to give Adam Scott a seven-shot lead with three rounds to go,” McIlroy told AFP.
Poor putting made life even tougher for McIlroy, who saw that Scott was six under after six as he watched the early morning coverage over breakfast.
The 24-year old had three three-putts and missed several chances as he followed early birdies at the second and sixth with mid-round bogeys at the 10th and 11th before picking up birdies at the 12th, 14th and 18th.
“I drove the ball pretty well off the tee but just didn’t get any reward on the greens,” McIroy said. “I missed three short ones and that was just wasteful as I felt it could have been a lot lower, given that I am driving the ball the best I feel I ever have.
“It’s just a matter of being more efficient and putting better, and that’s really it as I only played the par fives in one under par, and the way I am driving it, I should be playing those in four under.”
It’s a testament to the wat McIlroy hit the ball that he could have three three-putts and still take just 29 putts.
The problem is that Scott had just 24.
The par-five 16th summed up McIlroy’s day. He hit two magnificent shots to find the front edge of the green but failed to convert from around two feet for his birdie four.
Scott, meanwhile, scorched his way around Royal Sydney in 10 under, following six opening birdies on the back nine with four more in a row to finish.
“I was sitting over breakfast and noticed he had birdied the first six holes, so to shoot a 62 around here is great going,” said McIlroy, who ended the day tied for 16th in his first Australian Open appearance for seven years.
“So I guess when you see someone has shot 10-under par, and especially when it is Adam Scott at the top, I just felt I was standing in neutral gear even though I shot three under.”
Scott, the Masters champion and world No 2, leads by three strokes from American John Young Kim (65) and Canadian Ryan Yip (65) with David McKenzie (66) alone in fourth on six under.
“I don’t think I could have shot any better,” said Scott. “I made every putt I should have made. I just had five-footers all day for par or for birdie and I made everything I had an opportunity to. I didn’t leave anything out there.”
The Australian has been greeted like a rock star on his return home for the first time since his win at Augusta National and repaid the fans with some sensational golf.
He won the Australian PGA and the Talisker Masters in consecutive appearances before helping Jason Day win the team title in World Cup of Golf for Australia last week in Melbourne.
“It’s been great to come home and see how enthusiastic everyone is about coming out and watching. I wasn’t expecting that this morning at all — maybe tomorrow afternoon — but just incredible crowds this morning and so nice that I was able to hit a few nice shots for them and get it going.
“It’s fun to see golf on a bit of a high down here at the moment; really it’s been a lot of fun to play in front of everyone.”
Emirates Australian Open, Royal Sydney (Par 72, 6,344 Metres, 6,938 yards)
62 - Adam Scott (AUS).
65 - Ryan Yip (CAN), John Young Kim (USA).
66 - David McKenzie (AUS).
67 - Jason Norris (AUS), Aaron Baddeley (AUS), Jason Scrivener (AUS), Alistair Presnell (AUS).
68 - Scott Laycock (AUS), Steven Bowditch (AUS), Brady Watt (am, AUS), Anthony Brown (AUS), Matthew Jones (AUS), Steven Jones (AUS), Max McCardle (AUS).
69 - Nathan Holman (AUS), Tom Bond (AUS), Adam Bland (AUS), Kalem Richardson (AUS), Richard Green (AUS), Rory McIlroy (NIR), Josh Younger (AUS).
70 - James McLean (AUS), Jason Day (AUS), Kevin Streelman (USA), Mathew Goggin (AUS), Matthew Millar (AUS), James Nitties (AUS), Michael Choi (AUS), Yu-Xiang Liu (CHN), Aron Price (AUS), Nick O’Hern (AUS), Scott Arnold (AUS), Lucas Lee (BRA), Neven Basic (AUS).
71 - Rohan Blizard (AUS), Anthony Murdaca (am, AUS), Matthew Guyatt (AUS), Cameron Percy (AUS), Ashley Hall (AUS), Varut Chomchalum (THA), Annop Tangkamolprasert (THA), Bryden MacPherson (AUS), Scott Strange (AUS), Adam Crawford (AUS), Marcus Cain (AUS), Leigh Deagan (AUS), David Bransdon (AUS), Michael Wright (AUS), Rhein Gibson (AUS), Shi Kim (KOR).
72 - Rika Batibasaga (AUS), Robert Allenby (AUS), Craig Parry (AUS), Gareth Paddison (NZL), Clint Rice (AUS), Peter Lonard (AUS), Michael Long (AUS), Joon-woo Choi (KOR), Mahal Pearce (NZL), Jamie Arnold (AUS), Hyo-won Park (KOR).
73 - Andre Stolz (AUS), Stephen Leaney (AUS), Josh Geary (NZL), Peter O’Malley (AUS), Jin Jeong (KOR), Stephen Dartnall (AUS), Ryan Fox (NZL), Da-xing Jin (CHN), Timothy Wood (AUS), Zac Stolz (am, AUS), Bradley Lamb (AUS), Woo-Hyun Kim (KOR), Joon-eob Son (KOR), Peter Cooke (AUS), John Senden (AUS), Tze Huang Choo (SIN), Matthew Griffin (AUS), Leigh McKechnie (AUS), Nick Cullen (AUS), Tim Wilkinson (NZL), Richard T. Lee (CAN), Ryan Lynch (AUS), Ze-cheng Dou (am, CHN).
74 - Terry Pilkadaris (AUS), Ryan Haller (AUS), Pasavee Lertvilai (THA), David Klein (NZL), Peter Senior (AUS), Brad Shilton (NZL), Bronson La’Cassie (AUS), Anthony Summers (AUS), Paul Spargo (AUS), Martin Dive (AUS), Daniel Fox (AUS), Jun Seok Lee (KOR), Aaron Pike (AUS), Xin Jun Zhang (CHN), Brendan Smith (AUS).
75 - Eric Mina (USA), Rod Pampling (AUS), Scott Gardiner (AUS), Wisut Artjanawat (THA), John Wade (AUS), Dimitrios Papadatos (AUS), Brett Rankin (AUS), Michael Moore (AUS), Garrett Sapp (USA), Stephen Allan (AUS), Geoff Ogilvy (AUS), Stuart Appleby (AUS), Mark Brown (NZL), Marcus Fraser (AUS), Cameron Smith (AUS), Kieran Pratt (AUS), Steven Jeffress (AUS), Ming-hao Wang (CHN).
76 - Cameron Davis (am, AUS), Kristopher Mueck (AUS), Troy Cox (AUS), Geon-ha Kim (KOR), Xinyang Li (CHN), Toby Wilcox (AUS), Rory Bourke (AUS), Richard Lee (NZL), Peter Fowler (AUS), Shih-chang Chan (TPE), Peter Wilson (AUS), Thomas Petersson (SWE), Craig Hancock (AUS), Andrew Tschudin (AUS).
77 - Christopher Campbell (AUS), Daniel Popovic (AUS), Ren Han (CHN), Brody Ninyette (AUS), Ryan Ruffels (am, AUS), Yi Cao (CHN), Andrew Kelly (AUS), Andrew Martin (AUS), Grant Thomas (AUS).
78 - Ze-yu He (CHN), Terry Price (AUS), Matthew Ballard (AUS), Greg Chalmers (AUS), Wen-yi Huang (CHN), Aaron Townsend (AUS).
79 - Pravee Visalkit (THA), Zhi Jun Ou (CHN).
80 - Jack Wilson (AUS), Matthew Giles (AUS), Le Jun Deng (CHN), Xiongyi Zhao (CHN).
81 - Matthew Stieger (AUS).
82 - Zheng Ouyang (CHN).
DQ Kim Felton, Australia - DQ