World No1 Rory McIlroy found himself at the wrong end of the leaderboard after a poor start to the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral yesterday.
McIlroy described missing the cut in last week’s Honda Classic as a useful “kick up the backside” ahead of his bid to complete the career grand slam by winning the Masters at Augusta next month. But it did not appear to have had the desired effect as the Open champion struggled to four over par after nine holes of his opening round on the “Blue Monster” to lie joint 69th in the elite 74-man field.
Starting on the back nine, McIlroy failed to birdie the par-five 10th and then bogeyed the 11th after finding a greenside bunker with his approach and missing from 12 feet for par.
The 25-year-old also failed to get up and down from sand on the 17th before a costly double bogey on the 18th, where he found the middle of the fairway with a superb drive but then pulled his second shot into the water left of the green.
Thankfully for McIlroy there is no halfway cut this week but the Northern Irishman was still nine shots off the pace being set by American pair Ryan Moore and JB Holmes, with France’s Alexander Levy a shot behind on four under.
McIlroy’s playing partners, Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson, were faring much better despite dropping shots on the 18th following wayward drives, Stenson falling back to three under and Masters champion Watson on two under at the turn.
Scotland’s Marc Warren was two over at the turn but Stephen Gallacher endured a difficult first round and was eight over after 16 holes.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, Ireland’s Kevin Phelan carried on from where he left off last week by carding an opening 67 to claim a share of the lead in the Africa Open at East London Golf Club.
Phelan, who finished joint second behind Andy Sullivan in the Joburg Open on Sunday, carded six birdies and one bogey to finish alongside England’s Matt Ford on five under par.
Ford defied the blustery conditions to fire five birdies and no bogeys in a flawless round and finish a shot ahead of compatriots David Howell, Richard Bland and John Parry and South African Neil Schietekat and Spain’s Eduardo de la Riva.
Top Scot was David Drysdale whose two-under par round of 70 included an eagle at the first hole. Compatriots Scott Jamieson and Chris Doak also broke par, returning rounds of 71.
Further back were Craig Lee (75) and Richie Ramsay (76).
• Inbee Park and Yani Tseng both shot rounds of six-under 66 to share the lead after the opening round of the HSBC Women’s Champions at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore.
Angela Stanford of the United States was in third place, one stroke back. World No 1 Lydia Ko shot 68 and was tied for fourth with Karrie Webb, Jenny Shin, Mo Martin and Mariajo Uribe. Catriona Matthew is six shots off the lead following a par-round of 72.