Is Rory McIlroy teasing us with his opening round?
If Rory’s McIlroy’s round on Thursday’s gave you a feeling of deja vu, don’t worry, you weren’t the only one feeling that way. Bombed drives. Perfectly placed irons shots. Precision putting. If you showed someone McIlroy’s round but didn’t let them see the course he was playing, you could have sworn you were watching a replay of his opening round at last year’s British Open, where the Ulsterman, for one day, turned St. Andrews into his personal playground with a record-tying 63.
McIlroy almost did the exact same thing on Thursday at Augusta National, missing Greg Norman’s 1996 opening round record of 63 by a couple of shots. While there were a lot of comparisons between the two rounds (calm conditions, easy pins, etc.), you can be sure McIlroy hopes the comparisons end there.
Under blustery conditions on Friday at St. Andrews, McIlroy shot himself out of contention with an 80, washing away a great chance to be in contention on the weekend. While some people said the tournament was a warning shot to the rest of the golf world that McIlroy was close, others still questioned if he could put it together for four rounds in a major championship.
Less than nine months after that collapse, we’re about to find out. Riding a hot putter and some precision iron play — there’s that phrase again — McIlroy fired an opening round 65 to tie for the lead at the Masters with Alvaro Quiros. And while people were generally excited to see the new guard at the top of the leader board, there was a large contingent that wondered if this was just another Rory tease.
McIlroy definitely has the talent — we saw it on display at Quail Hollow — but so far, it hasn’t translated to major championship success. The good thing for the 21-year-old Ulsterman is that Augusta National will play nowhere near as difficult as St. Andrews. With another perfect day in the forecast, he’ll have a chance to prove if he can follow up brilliance with a round that keeps him in contention.
Nobody’s asking him to go out and shoot 7-under again tomorrow, but if McIlroy wants to get the detractors off his back, he’d do well to shoot a respectable number tomorrow and go into the weekend at or near the top of the leader board.