• Dropped two shots in last four holes
• 'It was one of my better starts at Augusta'
THE MASTERS | Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy dropped two shots in the last four holes to open his quest for the Grand Slam with a mixed two-under 70.
The world No.3, playing in the last group and being followed by Sir Alex Ferguson, was already five back on Jordan Spieth by the time he’d even got to the first tee - and he took some time to get going.
He birdied the seventh and ninth, getting to the turn in two-under, then rallied on the back nine to eagle 13 and birdie 15 and jump up the leaderboard on four-under.
The buzz kill landed on 16, where he missed a five-foot putt for par. He then leaked an approach on 18 into the bunker and got a bad lie, eventually failing to get up and down for par.
It was a day full of surprises, some more than others. Spieth shocked his doubters by producing “flawless” golf - as described by playing partner Paul Casey - courtesy of a 66. Jason Day, meanwhile, who had got himself to five-under at one point, played the last four holes in four-over for a level par 72.
Sir Alex Ferguson out on the course, following Rory McIlroy.
— Ewan Murray (@mrewanmurray) April 7, 2016
Jordan Spieth is trying to become the youngest player to defend the Masters title since 1923. Rory McIlroy is trying to become only the sixth player to win the Grand Slam. Jason Day just wants a Green Jacket. In terms of dogfights, it doesn’t get much better.
McIlroy, at least, is up for the fight.
"A 72-hole golf tournament is a long time," he said. "There's a lot of golf left to be played and a lot can happen. You have to stay patient. Par is going to be a pretty good score and the course will get firmer as the week goes on. It's going to be a good test."
He added: "It was good. If someone had given me a 70 for the first day I probably would have taken it. The conditions were tough out there. They were tricky and it was tough to hole putts. The par threes were tough but I played the par fives the way I wanted to. I was a little bit disappointed with the finish and the loose shot on 18 but I just need to go out there tomorrow and try and get those two shots back as quick as I can and then stick to my game plan which is to take advantage of the par fives. If I can do that I won’t be too far away at the end of the week.
“It was one of my better starts at Augusta. I am in the top ten and as I said at the start of the week it’s important to make a good start. It would have been nice to have been a couple of shots better but I think 70 in those conditions was pretty good.
Rory McIlroy 'a little angry'
“I was a little angry coming off the 18th green but if I look back on it I hit some good shots, missed some opportunities and it could have been a bit better but I need to stay patient and realise that my score was good today and I am not too far behind the guys at the top of the leaderboard.”