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Wild drive sums up Rory McIlroy’s Masters start, leaving himself a mountain to climb

McIlroy

Rory McIlroy’s bid for a first Masters title has got off to an inauspicious start.

The Northern Irishman’s form since golf returned from lockdown in June has been patchy, but it looks as though Augusta will offer him little reprieve. McIlroy battled his way through his opening nine holes to sit at even par before darkness forced an end to Thursday’s play.

Looking to kick-start his tournament with a couple of early birdies on Friday morning, McIlroy’s struggles continued.

The four-time major winner failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker on 10, leading to another dropped shot.

Then, after pars on the treacherous 11th and 12th holes, McIlroy produced an erratic drive off the 13th tee.

Rory McIlroy

There were shades of his implosion in 2011 when a horrid snap-hook off the 10th tee put paid to his chances of slipping into the green jacket.

On that occasion, McIlroy staggered off the 10th green following a shattering triple bogey.

This time, however, the punishment wasn’t quite as severe. After a wild hook left him in the trees off the left of the 13th fairway, he took a penalty drop and chipped out to the fairway.

McIlroy was unable to get up and down from there, leaving him with a bogey six on the par-five.

It may have only been a single shot dropped, but with McIlroy’s power, he should be eating up that hole.

At the time of writing, he is +3, 10 shots adrift of early pacesetters Paul Casey and Dylan Frittelli, after following his six on the 13th with another bogey at the 14th.

In a Masters which has yielded a birdie barrage, McIlroy is at risk of shooting himself out of contention before the weekend.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Paul McGinley – who captained McIlroy at the 2014 Ryder Cup – offered a withering assessment of the world number five’s woes.

“He hasn’t been at it,” said McGinley.

“He was fortunate last night that play had to be stopped with the daylight because he wasn’t on it yesterday.

“He was heading nowhere but he’s continued it this morning and he hasn’t regrouped overnight. There have been some really poor shots from him.

“McIlroy may well lose this tournament on the first day because of the quality of the scoring around him. He’s going to be so far back unless he does something drastic over the last few holes.”

Quiz: Name every golfer to have won The Masters winner since 2000

After watching McIlroy drop another at 14, McGinley was convinced. “McIlroy is becoming a non-factor at this event,” he said.

With the way it’s going, it’s hard to argue with that observation.

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