Friday, April 05, 2013


By JAMES CORRIGAN in San Antonio
Rory McIlroy came to this Texas Open on a mission “to eliminate the silly mistakes” in time for next week’s Masters. Thursday’s first round underlined the urgency of those judgment adjustments.
Up and down: Rory McIlroy started brightly but ended up with an opening round 72 at the Texas Open
It is enough to drive a 23-year-old mental. At 9.50am on April 4, he had finally claimed a lead for the first time in 2013. An hour later he was bemoaning three bogeys in a row which perfectly highlighted his weakness at the moment. It is between the ears, not between the shoulders.
“If you take out those silly mistakes I came here to fix then it would have been a good score,” McIlroy said. Indeed, it would have been a 69 instead of a level-par 72 and he would have been so much closer to Padraig Harrington, his fellow Irishman who was clubhouse leader on four-under.
As it is, he is far from out of contention, but aware that he must repair his broken course management – and soon. The 18th (his ninth) was a case in point. On a cold and gusty morning in the San Antonio hills he had strode to two-under and to the top of the scoreboard, birdieing the par-five 14th and the par-four 17th – the latter courtesy of almost driving the green – and making a 20-footer for par in between on the 15th. McIlroy was left with a little over 100 yards with his third on the par-five 18th, with the hole cut in the front and a creek guarding. Then came the brain freeze.
“I thought I hit a good shot and it came back into the water,” McIlroy explained. In truth, he had taken on too much – the wise shot was to the left of the flag. His head dropped and the look at his caddie, JP Fitzgerald said “here we go again”.
There it went again, as he bogeyed the par four first when misjudging his approach with a wedge shot and then failed to get up and down just off the back of the green. He was at it again on the 602-yard par-five second when going for the green with his second and slicing it into the trees. McIlroy’s body language resembled his play – sloppy. “I think what happened on the 18th got to me,” McIlroy said with trademark honesty.
McIlroy regrouped and a 50-yard chip to five feet on the fifth (his 14th) and a 120-yard wedge to the same distance on the next took him back under par. A closing bogey, after another pushed tee-shot in the wind, left him with mixed emotions. “How do I stop these errors?” he said. “I don’t know.
“Just stop doing them, I guess. It’s hard to explain. It’ll just come with play and that’s why I’m here this week.”
As McIlroy said, experience is important when the winds are up and the fairways are tight. Padraig Harrington would definitely not disagree after his 68. “It was cold and it was windy out there – and that combination is not a day for ball striking,” he said. “I’m not walking away from this round thinking 'wow, I hit so many pure golf shots’ or anything like that. This more of a test of mental fortitude than ball striking today.”
Even then, there was a maddening moment for Harrington to ping around his cranium. On the 18th, Harrington believed he had holed the 30-footer for birdie. But it dribbled four feet past and he missed the putt for his only bogey of the round. “It was a stinker and it kind of takes the shine off the day,” he said. The 41-year-old was later joined on four-under by the young American Billy Horshel, with England’s Brian Davis maintaining his recent upturn in form on three-under.





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