Just as Scottish golf fans are quick to praise good golf shots, they don’t hesitate to criticise what they see as poor play. “He’s f****** s**** – and you can quote that,” piped up one spectator standing behind a group of golf writers out following Rory McIlroy at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
That, of course, most certainly isn’t the case, but it was definitely appropriate for the shot McIlroy had just played and some others – all with a wedge in his hand – as he opened with a disappointing two-over-par 74 at Dundonald Links.
With a driver in his mitts, McIlroy was majestic for most of the round, but that’s not really what he’s looking for in this event with an Open Championship just a week away. He wanted to see improvement in both his wedge play and putting but failed on both counts in his opening 18 holes.
The four-time major winner set the tone at his second hole, the 121-yard 11th, where his tee shot came up short left in a bunker. From less than 100 yards at the next, he also couldn’t find the green. When he then dumped one from the middle of the fairway at the 13th into a burn to run up a double-bogey 6 and go four-over after four holes, the large crowd out following McIlroy’s group could scarcely believe what they were seeing.
He’d spoken earlier in the week about how, after missing the cut in last week’s Irish Open, he reckoned that he had become too steep with his wedges and had been working on trying to play knockdown shots for both this event and next week’s major. It’s still work in progress by the looks of things and he couldn’t have been happy either with a wedge he knifed from a drop zone at the 18th green into a bunker as another shot was spilled there.
Helped by three birdies at par-5s thereafter, McIlroy was able to repair some of that early damage but still finished seven shots behind one of his playing partners, Rickie Fowler.
Open champion Henrik Stenson, the third member in that blockbuster group, started with a triple-bogey 7 on his return to Ayrshire but recovered to salvage a 72.
McIlroy had nothing to say afterwards and maybe that was a good thing. He needs his clubs to do the talking.