McIlroy facing uphill battle after green-reading struggle

McIlroy facing uphill battle after green-reading struggle

Rory McIlroy will have to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods 14 years ago and come back from an over-par first round to win the Masters.

Woods opened with a a 74 to trail Chris DiMarco by seven strokes in 2005 but recovered with rounds of 66 and 65 to lead by three strokes after 54 holes, eventually beating DiMarco in a playoff after a final round 71 to claim his fourth green jacket.

McIlroy is also seven strokes off the pace after the first round, tied for 44th compared to 33rd for Woods, who is the last player to come from outside the top 10 after the first round to win the Masters.

The biggest comeback after the first round is also seven strokes, held jointly by Woods (2005) and Nick Faldo (1990).

Bogeys at the last two holes saw McIlroy sign for a one-over 73 and while clearly disappointed to make six bogeys on a day when 28 players broke par and 10 broke 70, he knows all is not lost by any means.

His first task is to make sure he makes the cut for the top 50 and ties and with the winning score likely to be double digits under par, he’s going to need three 68’s or better to have a chance.

There is little room for error now.

“I made five birdies, that wasn't the problem,” he said after three-putting the 17th and missing a five footer for par at the last after a pull-hook off the tee left him out of position.

“I just made too many mistakes.  And that was the problem.  And I'm making mistakes from pretty simple positions, just off the side of the green, 17 and 18 being prime examples of that.”

He missed seven fairways (four to the right) but what worried him more was his reading of the greens and a 32 putt round.

While he made five birdies, four of them were from inside five feet at the short par-four third and the par-five eighth, 13th and 15th holes. The other was a 35 footer down the hill for a two at the 16th.

But he also missed five putts inside nine feet — two for birdie and three for par — and admitted he needed to work on his putting after the round.

“Yeah, 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,” he said. “Just figuring out, I over read a few early on, and then I started to under read them coming in.  So just try to work on that a little bit. 

“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.  So sometimes that happens.  They will get faster as the week goes on, so it's just a matter of adjusting.”