Resilient McIlroy shows maturity after learning harsh lesson
Rory McIlroy showed his growing maturity when he dug deep into his reserves of patience to grind out a three-over 73 in high winds in the opening round of the Honda Classic.
Winds gusting over 30mph sent scores soaring at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens with US Open champion Graeme McDowell also carding a 73 on a day when only a handful of players broke par.
But while McIlroy's round could easily have been a couple of shots better, the Holywood starlet was pleased not to blow himself out of contention on a day when Ernie Els shot 75, Ross Fisher 76 and Rickie Fowler 76 and defending champion Camilo Villegas a 79.
Reminded of the second round 80 that cost him his shot at Open glory at St Andrews last year, McIlroy said: "I learnt a lot from that. I always think about that day when I play in conditions like this and you have to realise that 74 or 75 is not a bad score.
"You have to hang in there, make pars, don't try and chase pins and hit it in the middle of the green and two putt.
"Even though that Friday at St Andrews was a bad day in my very short career, it did me the world of good for days like today."
A win here would see McIlroy overtake Tiger Woods as world No 5 and while he made just one birdie yesterday, he knows he will have every chance if he can card a level par round this afternoon.
American Spencer Levin shot a 67 to lead by a stroke in the clubhouse from Ye Yang and Australian duo Stuart Appleby and Craig Chalmers, former Walker Cup player Kyle Stanley and South African Charl Schwartzel.
A three-club wind, which McIlroy calculated at around 35 yards, made clubbing a dark art on the water-strewn resort course with an exacting par of 70.
And while McIlroy got off to a great start with a birdie from 15 feet at the 10th, putting was difficult in the gusty conditions and missed greens led to bogeys at the 12th, 15th, first and sixth.
He said: "You are hitting putts that would be right edge with no wind, but with the wind really blowing you had to hit that putt outside the left. You just had to trust in that and be decisive.
Late starter McDowell went to the turn in three-over 38 with bogeys at the first, seventh and ninth, where he missed a trio of eight footers for par.
But he showed true grit on the tough back nine, reeling off nine pars in a row to finish the day in the middle of the pack on three over.
Honda Classic, Live, Sky Sports 3, 8.0