Shaky start for Rory McIlroy at Doral, but he found his rhythm

Rory McIlroy hits his drive on No. 12 during the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Doral, Florida, on Thursday, March 5, 2015.
Rory McIlroy hits his drive on No. 12 during the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Doral, Florida, on Thursday, March 5, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

To put it bluntly but truthfully, Rory McIlroy had a miserable tournament last week at the Honda Classic. And the first one to say so would be … well, Rory McIlroy.

In fact, he did not even have a horrible entire tournament, since he missed the cut and didn’t play the final two rounds.

Was he overly worried at that performance? No, more mad at himself than worried. He said he has been playing “tentatively,” and that needs to change.

“It’s just a matter of playing myself back into some sort of rhythm,” McIlroy said.

On Thursday, McIlroy played the back nine first, and his game continued to be off, similar to his performance at Honda. At the turn and after a double-bogey on the treacherous No. 18, McIlroy was standing at 4-over-par. That’s the score of an extremely proficient amateur golfer, not the score of the best golfer in the world.

And after posting that 40 is when McIlroy made a decision.

“I was sort of like, there’s not much else to lose, go ahead and try to be aggressive. Hit some better shots on the way in, and something around even par isn’t going to be that bad.”

He did just that, and McIlroy’s final nine holes were a huge improvement.

He shot 33 and finished with a 1-over-par 73 for the day, partially in thanks to an eagle on the 549-yard, par-5 eighth hole.

“It was important to me to make some birdies on the way in, and obviously that eagle helped, also,” McIlroy said.

To keep any sort of momentum going, he said, “I’ll do a little bit of work this evening on the swing and then get after it. It’s just a matter of staying positive and staying aggressive and making good, committed swings.

“I don’t feel like it’s that far away. It is very good on the range, and it is very good in normal play when I’m not playing a tournament. Then when I’ve got a scorecard in my hand the last couple of weeks, it just hasn’t been there. That’s the frustrating thing.”

McIlroy added that confidence is not a problem and that he is looking forward to the next few days.

“It’s obviously not what I wanted,” he said of Thursday’s round. “But there’s no reason to panic and no reason to be alarmed. Just go out and put some red numbers on the board and try to get myself back into it.”

Reed razzed

Patrick Reed, the defending champion, got off to a fast start Thursday. Beginning on the back nine, he made birdies on his first three holes and added another on his sixth hole. Reed was minus-4 and cruising in the same manner he played to win last year’s Cadillac title.

Then he cruised right into trouble, taking a double-bogey on the Blue Monster’s signature hole, No. 18.

Going over to the front nine, he could only manage one birdie vs. three bogeys, giving him a 71, a minus-1 for his first day work.

“Pretty poor round,” Reed assessed. “This was pretty ugly.”

On his final hole, the 200-yard par-3 ninth, he even took some razzing from the bleachers. His tee shot went into a bunker, and he came out too strong and the shot flirted with going into the water but pulled up short. While the ball was scooting across the green, some fans were yelling, “Roll … roll … roll,” trying to urge it into the water.

Finally, those same fans started yelling derisively “top five” to Reed, in reference to him saying he was a top five player in the world after winning last year’s Cadillac Championship.

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