AUGUSTA, United States (AFP) - Top-ranked Rory McIlroy was satisfied with a one-under par 71 start to the 79th Masters, but knows he can do better as he tries to complete a career Grand Slam.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland, seeking his third major victory in a row this week at Augusta National, was pleased with his patience and maturity to avoid what could have been a rough start in the year’s first major.
“I just kept telling myself to be patient out there. It was a tricky day,” McIlroy said.
“The wind was swirling a little bit. Pin positions were tough. Anything under par, I felt, was a pretty good score.
“Today was a pretty good day. I feel like I can do better. But happy after day one and go out and just try and do a little bit better tomorrow.”
McIlroy had been pointing toward this round ever since he won the British Open last July to put himself on the brink of becoming only the sixth player to have won all four majors in his career.
“It was nice to get out there and play,” McIlroy said. “It was a long time coming. Glad to get started and pretty satisfied.
“I haven’t put too much pressure on myself. Look, I obviously know what I can achieve this week, but I’m not letting myself think about it too much. Just trying to play it one round at a time.”
McIlroy would join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan in completing the career Grand Slam with a Masters win.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, one of McIlroy’s playing partners, called it “the softest I’ve ever seen the greens,” but McIlroy could not capitalise fully.
“It was a solid start. It could have been better but it could have been worse,” McIlroy said. “If I can hit a few iron shots closer and convert on a few of those opportunities, I’ll be right there.”
McIlroy made a bogey at the par-3 sixth but answered with a birdie on the next hole. After a bogey at the 11th, McIlroy birdied the par-5 13th and par-5 15th holes.
“It could have been a round that got away from me,” McIlroy said. “I made bogey on 11 and I just stayed patient, realising that it’s a 72-hole golf tournament and not having to press too much.
“It was good to get into red numbers after day one and I feel with the way I’m driving the ball, if I can keep doing that and just be a little more patient with my iron play and give myself more opportunities, I’ll be right there at the end of the week.”
McIlroy wanted to play the par-five’s better and he did, salvaging par at the par-five second after his tee shot went left and found a creek.
“It was nice to make those birdies on the par-fives,” McIlroy said. “Pretty satisfied with the day’s work.”