Disappointing finish for Rory McIlroy in WGC-Cadillac Championship
Rory McIlroy suffered a disappointing finish to his opening round in the WGC-Cadillac Championship after a change of technique initially promised to pay instant dividends at Trump National Doral.
After missing the cut in the Honda Classic last week, McIlroy changed to a "crosshanded" putting method - with his left hand below the right on the grip - and vowed to stick with it regardless of the short-term outcome, with his bid to complete the career grand slam at the Masters just five weeks away.
The early signs were promising as McIlroy carded five birdies and two bogeys in his first 10 holes on the famed 'Blue Monster' course alongside world number one Jordan Spieth and USPGA champion Jason Day.
But the 26-year-old then three-putted the eighth for par - the same hole where he threw his three-iron into a lake in frustration 12 months ago - and found the water with his tee shot on the ninth.
The resulting double bogey meant McIlroy had to settle for an opening round of 71, five shots behind clubhouse leader Scott Piercy, who carded eight birdies and two bogeys in a six-under-par 66.
Phil Mickelson, who has not won since claiming his fifth major title in the 2013 Open at Muirfield, was a shot behind, with England's Danny Willett and American Jason Dufner both on four under.
"I hit a lot of good shots, I was really pleased with the way the round went," Mickelson told Sky Sports. "I probably let a few shots go early on, but I hit a lot of good shots, I was patient with the round and on my second nine I was able to make some birdies and capitalise on some of the shots."
Spieth carded five birdies and two bogeys to finish three under, with world number two Day faring the worst of the marquee group with a level-par 72.
Asked about playing alongside Day and McIlroy, Spieth told Sky Sports: "We had fun and for a while there were feeding off each other, turning in two, two and three under.
"It was nice to try and get into a rhythm together because the last few weeks have been a little rough on all three of us.
"I've been doing quite a bit of work. I don't feel great about the way I am striking the ball. I'm working really hard trying to develop patience through my swing and get into my right side. I have been transitioning a little quick and that leads to a shorter swing and more inconsistent ball striking."