'I just made too many mistakes' - Rory McIlroy falters on first day of Masters at Augusta
Rory McIlroy was left with a massive job on his hands after dual US Open champion Brooks Koepka and 'science nerd' Bryson DeChambeau put down stunning first round markers at Augusta National.
The two Americans' six-under-par rounds of 66 left them seven clear of McIlroy on an incredibly congested leaderboard and facing the stark statistic that no player since Tiger Woods in '05 has won the Masters title having failed to beat par in their opening round.
McIlroy was initially surprised that, as he put it, "there hasn't been lower scores out there", but Koepka and DeChambeau - both starting more than two hours after the Irishman - found blistering momentum on the back nine.
McIlroy's round included five birdies and six bogeys, the pre tournament favourite admitting that he'd "just made too many mistakes."
In his fifth attempt at securing the coveted career Grand Slam here, the world No 3 finished poorly with two closing bogeys, undoing much of the good work from a terrific run of three birdies in four holes between 13 and 16.
McIlroy declared that he'd be heading straight for the putting green afterwards, admitting.
"I'm making mistakes from pretty simple positions." His scrambling stats were particularly poor, meaning he got up and down only once in seven attempts.
"I mean I felt the course was there. It's soft. There's not much wind," said McIlroy. "I made five birdies, that wasn't the problem.
"I just made too many mistakes.
"That was the problem and I'm making mistakes from pretty simple positions, just off the side of the green, 17 and 18 being prime examples of that."
With five consecutive top-10 finishes at the Masters, McIlroy has some fine performances at Augusta National to look back on.
Yet it has also been the scene of one of his biggest failures, a final-round collapse in 2011 when he failed to close out the win despite entering the day with a four-shot lead.
"I think I've sort of been through it all here at this golf course," said McIlroy, who is trying to become just the sixth golfer to complete the career slam. "So ... it's fine.
"You know you're going to have chances.
"There's birdie opportunities. I can accept mistakes if I'm trying and it's not a mental error or I haven't got into places, so I can accept some mistakes.
"But six bogeys out there is a little too many and I'm just going to need to tidy that up over the next few days."
Ominously, Woods posted a two-under 70, the same figure he opened with for three of his four Masters wins ('97, '01 and '02) and significantly better than his start in '05 when he started by shooting 74.
McIlroy pushed his opening drive wide right into the trees at the first - roughly the same position he'd found on Masters Sunday a year ago.
That brought bogey and the tournament favourite struggled to find any early momentum, missing a birdie putt from seven feet on two before getting that shot back to par on three with an up and down from 38 yards.
He then found trouble with the difficult pin position on six, his tee-shot rolling back down the hill, McIlroy three-putting.
He left himself with a tap-in birdie on eight, but then went bogey, bogey on ten and 11, slipping out to a disappointiing two-over.
But it was then he mounted a charge, McIlroy birdieing 13 (on in two), 15 (on in two) and 16 (a wonderful, curling 25-footer), before slipping back to evens with a three-putt on 17.
Those were followed by a badly pulled drive on 18, forcing McIlroy to play left of a tree and, accordingly, find an unorthodox position left of the green. He couldn't get down in three from there, meaning that ugly sixth bogey on his scorecard.