PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — His opening tee shot advised it was not going to be a enjoyable day for Rory McIlroy.
Set as much as lower his drive into the tenth fairway — his first gap of the Gamers Championship — McIlroy hit what execs name a “double-cross” and as a substitute hooked his tee shot into the tough and began the event with a double-bogey 6.
His physique language stated all of it as he headed towards the inexperienced.
He’s nonetheless struggling.
The spherical wouldn’t get significantly better for McIlroy, who has lamented his incapacity to get the unhealthy stuff out of his recreation with a view to let the good things shine. The issue is there was an excessive amount of of the unhealthy stuff. For instance, he hit two balls within the water on the 18th gap Thursday for a quadruple-bogey 8. Later, after posting 43 on his first 9, he closed the day with a bogey on the par-5 ninth to shoot 79 — 14 pictures worse than first-round chief Sergio Garcia, who performed in the identical group as McIlroy on Thursday.
“I simply assume it is arduous to recuperate while you simply have not performed good,” McIlroy stated. “I imply, regardless, in case you take the [quintuple at 18] out, it nonetheless wasn’t an excellent day.”
At the moment final 12 months, when he entered this occasion because the defending champion earlier than it was known as off after the primary spherical due to the coronavirus pandemic, McIlroy was coming off a stretch of seven consecutive top-5 finishes, together with a win on the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions occasion in China.
That’s his final victory.
Final 12 months, within the ultimate spherical earlier than golf was compelled right into a 13-week shutdown, McIlroy struggled at TPC Sawgrass, needing three consecutive birdies to complete at even-par 72 and path chief Hideki Matsuyama by 9 pictures. Later that night time, the event was canceled and McIlroy and the tour did not return till June. And when it got here again, McIlroy admitted his motivation won’t have come again with him. And now, his recreation has gone lacking for stretches.
“The great things is there,” McIlroy stated earlier this week. “It at all times will probably be. I will at all times be capable of determine it out and discover a means.
“However it’s when it goes barely off, how do you handle that? I really feel like over the previous few years, I have been actually good at when my recreation hasn’t been absolutely there nonetheless be capable of shoot 69, 70, nonetheless having the ability to get it beneath par. I really feel like the previous few weeks when it hasn’t felt fairly proper, I am form of treading water and I am simply making an attempt to shoot even par. That was form of what it felt like final week.
“It is simply while you’re not feeling fairly one hundred pc, that is when it’s essential to simply be capable of handle it somewhat higher. I simply have not managed it properly over the previous few weeks.”
On Thursday, McIlroy hit simply 6 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens. He additionally wanted 34 putts and ranked close to the underside of the sphere in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained tee to inexperienced.
“This course, you do not have to be that far off to get penalized loads,” Garcia stated. “So it occurs. Sadly, he did not hit an excellent tee shot on the tenth gap, made double, which is rarely the type of begin you need. After which just a bit bit off and simply missed a few birdies, feels such as you’re not making any floor, you attempt to power issues somewhat bit and sadly for him it bit him somewhat bit.
“However I informed him after we completed, simply go on the market [on Friday] and get it and also you by no means know. I shot 7 beneath so he can shoot 7 beneath and hopefully make the lower.”
McIlroy, 31, fell out of the highest 10 within the Official World Golf Rating on Sunday for the primary time in additional than three years when he shot a final-round 76 on the Arnold Palmer Invitational to complete in a tie for tenth.
On Sunday at Bay Hill he hit two balls within the water on the sixth gap and walked off the course after his spherical muttering in frustration. He talked that day about adjustments he was contemplating, although that turned out to be heat-of-the-moment stuff.
“I believe it was simply me strolling off the course not having my finest day and I suppose form of venting somewhat bit to whoever was there on the time,” he stated. “In order that was actually it.”
When the pandemic hit, McIlroy was No. 1 on this planet. After the pandemic, he wanted 9 tournaments earlier than lastly posting a top-10 on the Tour Championship. He tied for eighth on the U.S. Open and tied for fifth on the Masters, although he was by no means actually an element after opening with 75. He completed 9 strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson.
These have been the one two top-5 finishes in his previous 19 worldwide occasions. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January was actually the one occasion the place he was actually in competition; a final-round 72 after holding the 54-hole lead noticed him tie for third.
McIlroy did not wish to blame the shutdown or the pandemic for his on-course points.
“I believe it could be improper of me to take a seat right here and say that life has been arduous for the previous 12 months as a result of I acknowledge and I believe everybody else out right here on tour acknowledges that we have been very fortunate in comparison with the overwhelming majority of those who have needed to stay via this,” he stated.
Nonetheless, in the course of the lengthy stretch when followers weren’t allowed, McIlroy was trustworthy, saying it was troublesome competing in silence after being surrounded by crowds for thus lengthy. Now, although, the followers are slowly coming again, however McIlroy’s recreation is just not. He has a variety of work to do within the second spherical right here to make the weekend. And looming is the Masters, lower than a month away. It stays the one main McIlroy has not but gained.
“The great golf is in there, and I really feel able to going out and capturing good scores,” he stated. “However it’s the times the place you do not really feel so good that it’s essential to handle it and get it round in a pair beneath par. That is the problem for me proper now.
“I really feel like I can go on the market and string 4 good rounds collectively, nevertheless it’s perhaps only a bit extra of a problem than it perhaps felt a pair years in the past. However that is on me to attempt to get somewhat extra comfy and work fairly arduous and really feel like I am in a little bit of a greater place with all of it.”