McIlroy feels a draught at the top of the world



Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, particularly when it's gusting 25mph, you're “feeling flat” and a Blue Monster is rattling your cage. So it was for Rory McIlroy here at the WGC Cadillac yesterday as, on his first competitive day as world No 1, he shot over par for the first time in five months.

Perhaps his one-over 73 in windy conditions was inevitable after his heroics of Sunday, when victory in the Honda Classic lifted him above Luke Donald to become the second-youngest player to the top the order in the 26-year-old history of the rankings. This has been extraordinary run from the 22-year-old, notching 11 top fives in a stretch going back to the USPGA last August. His third-round 73 in Korea 29 rounds ago, was the last time he recorded a round in the blue.

"To be honest, I felt a little flat out there," said McIlroy after four bogeys ganged up on his three birdies. "I shouldn't because it's a World Golf Championship event. But then, when you've won the Honda and gone to No 1 all of a sudden you're there and you're like 'Well, what do I do now?' I just need to go out and set myself a target tomorrow and try to post a number."

McIlroy's challenge now will be to ensure his reign does not last a mere week. Depending on where the Ulsterman finishes, Donald could win back his throne with a top-four finish. And but for a bogey, double-bogey spurt on his eighth and ninth holes (he started on the 10th) the Englishman would have been challenging the Australian Adam Scott and the American Jason Dufner, the leaders on six-under with a 66.

Still, Donald would have been more than happy with his two-under 70, especially as he came out best in the Great British and Ireland three-ball. The world No 2 beat the No 1 by three and the No 3 by six. In many respects, Lee Westwood's was the most intriguing round.

Followed by a crowd about half the size of the Tiger Woods gallery – the 14-time major champion six back on level par – McIlroy, Donald and Westwood were in a chatty mood as they set off. Westwood and McIlroy were particularly friendly, making their supposed "grudge" seem more than slightly ridiculous. And anyway Westwood soon had a genuine foe; the Doral layout with "the Blue Monster" tag.

Westwood, who needs to win here to stand any chance of usupring McIlroy striped his first drive, but then, for the next nine holes, only stars appeared in front of his eyes. It was less Cadillac and more caddyshack. Indeed, if it wasn't for some extraordinary escapes from bunkers, the damage on Westwood's scorecard would have been more disastrous than a 40 and an eventual 76.

It was a dramatic change in form. On Sunday, Westwood's 63 took him to fourth place at the Honda Classic and he made the 90-minute journey south to Miami confident of at least bettering his best performance at Doral; a tie for 18th last year. Tee to green he has had no superior for the last two years or so and that's what made wayward Westwood cut such a unfamiliar figure. He took three unplayables on his first nine, the first on his first hole (the 10th) when he flew the ball from a greenside bunker over the green and into a water hazard.

Then, after three-putting the 11th, he drove into thick rough, hacked across the fairway into a bush and, after accepting a penalty, located another greenside bunker. This time his sand-wedge saved him, as it was to on the 15th and the 18th, but it was ultimately fighting a losing battle. On the 16th, Westwood's drive was 70 yards of line, burying itself in another bush on the left of the fairway. Another unplayable, another bogey. At this stage he was 74th out of 74.

Credit to Westwood for coming back in level par. There was a humourous moment of his 13th when he hit his approach and a spectator shouted "Go!". Westwood shouted back "Don't go, sit!". Undeterred the spectator screamed "Go! go!", to which Westwood replied "Shut up, will you? Sit!". Eventually the ball landed pin high and the putt was holed. But two bogeys kept him near the back of the pack, alongside Ian Poulter who was displaying the after-effects of his recent bout of pneumonia.

"I've lost 10lbs and after five days in bed I was bound to struggle a bit," said Poulter. "My legs were tired but I'm just glad to have got in a round of golf."

Woods has greater aims as he tries to build on his 62 on Sunday which led to a tie for second, his best "official" result in more than two years. He finished with an eagle at Palm Beach and started with an eagle here.

"The intent was to play where I left off [at the PGA National] and I got off to a nice start," he said. "But a couple of mistakes with iron shots on the eighth and ninth cost me bogeys. After that I played really solid golf but just couldn't make enough birdies."

Woods was aware that with these winds it could have far been worse. He could have been his playing partner Sergio Garcia, who went out in 31 and came back in 44 for a three-over 75. The Spaniard cruised through his first 12 holes with seven birdies to stand at five-under and proceeded to play his remaining six holes in eight over. Five bogeys and a triple on the 18th. Ouch.

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits