Rory McIlroy rues slow start at Masters as wait for career Grand Slam continues

Rory McIlroy was left to rue nine poor holes in his opening round as his bid to complete the career Grand Slam with a Masters victory was put on hold for at least five more months.

The four-time major winner finished in a tie for fifth place, a distant nine shots behind runaway champion Dustin Johnson, despite posting a third successive sub-70 score with a final-round 69.

Unfortunately, the damage was done in the first round when, resuming early on Friday after a delayed start to the opening day, he carded four bogeys and just one birdie in his remaining nine holes to shoot 75 – his worst first round in 12 starts at Augusta.

Since 2015 the Northern Irishman is a combined 28 over par in the first round of majors and 61 under in rounds two, three and four and he was all too aware of the problem this week.

“I look back on this week and obviously rue what happened maybe not on Thursday because I felt I played OK but that Friday morning coming back and finishing that first round,” he told Sky Sports.

“But after that I played well, I hung in there, just had to shoot a good score to be here for the weekend and played a really solid weekend.

“I wasn’t really thinking about trying to win the tournament (on Sunday). When I got to 11 under after the eighth hole I saw DJ had gone to 15 under and I thought maybe there might be a chance but then the wind got up and it was just hard to make birdies on that back nine.

“I am pleased with my performance, especially over the last three rounds.”

The absence of crowds added to the unique feeling of a Masters in November but in some ways it helped some of the players.

Whether that situation will be the same next April remains to be seen but McIlroy intends to try to maintain his more relaxed approach then when he continues his quest for a green jacket to complete a full set of majors.

Also helping the former number one’s state of mind is his new life as a father after the birth of his first child, Poppy, in August.

“Definitely more relaxed, definitely not as much anxiety or stress,” he said of the atmosphere this week.

“I think it has been easier because I get home after I play and my attention is completely turned to something else, it is not really on the golf, I can sit there and play with my daughter and completely get my mind off it.

“It’s a little more relaxed and I like this vibe a little better.

“Hopefully we get back to normal Masters in a few months’ time but I’m going to try to adopt this approach.”