McIlroy stands tall after work on short game pays off with 65

Ulsterman sets blistering early pace but late surge from Quiros sees leadership shared

Rory McIlroy is no respecter of reputation. Nine months after bringing the grand old lady that is the Old Course to her knees with a 63, so the Ulsterman dared treat the Georgia beauty in the same contemptible manner. With a 65 the 21-year-old became the youngest first-round leader in Masters history.

What a way to start the 75th edition of the season’s opening major. McIlroy’s seven-birdied, no-bogeyed magnificence was just what this glorious spectacle deserved. After two third places in his last two majors, and three third places in the last five majors, McIlroy is on the premises yet again and along with the big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros leading a double-pronged challenge for the first European green-jacket this century.

Yet recent experience warns the boy of the perils. At St Andrews he scored an 80 on a windswept second day; an ordeal which will figure large in his mind today. “I think it will be a massive help,“ said McIlroy, after breaking 70 for the first time at Augusta. “Looking back, it was a very valuable lesson in my development. I'll be thinking about it tomorrow and thinking how I can do things better than that day. Shooting a score like that… well, you should really never make that mistake again.”

He added: “It's possible that I can go out and shoot another 65, but I know that it's also very likely I'm not going to do that. So if I do find myself in a bit of trouble, I'm going to have to stick in there, grind it out.”

A grind was the furthest image from the admiring observer’s mind yesterday. This was vintage Rory; if it possible to be vintage at an age when your friends are still in college, that is. It seemed effortless, as he blasted into the middle of the fairways and from there at the pins. It could have been so much better, historic even, but at least four makeable putts stayed up. Only two 63s have ever been recorded here.

“I’d take a 65 all day long,” said McIlroy. “I wouldn't say it wasn't as spectacular as the 63 at St Andrews but it was very solid from start to finish. I've struggled with the front nine over the past couple of years and made a point last Friday to play 27 and go out on the front nine again and just make sure I'm very comfortable with the shots I need to hit there.”

Comfortable? He was four-under at the turn. McIlroy looked and played relaxed from the outset. Little wonder really, seeing as he has brought a group of pals over to stay with him in a rented house near to the course. On Wednesday night they were to be found playing American Football in the street - until a elderly female neighbour told them off. Sometimes it is all too easy to forget how young McIlroy happens to be.

This is only his ninth major and yesterday was only his seventh competitive round at Augusta. “I'm still relatively inexperienced but I feel as if I'm a pretty quick learner. I'm getting there,“ said McIlroy, who missed the USPGA play-off by a mere shot last August. “There’s no substitute for experience, especially around here. But I’ve learned where to miss it in the right spots.” In truth, these wasn’t too much missing going on out there.

This was exactly what he wanted and indeed expected after a three-week break, the last two of which were spent in Florida working with his long-time coach, Michael Bannon. The gym-work he has been doing with Steve McGregor, Lee Westwood’s fitness coach, has firmed up both his figure and his resolve. It has been the ideal build-up. With all the attention on Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and the other Europeans above him in the rankings, the world No 9 came in here somewhat under the radar. Well, his figure has suddenly lit up the screen.

For so long on the first day he seemed certain to be the lone pacesetter. But Quiros is capable of the most outrageous birdie runs and with three birdies in the last four holes the player in the very last grouping drew level with McIlroy, leaving two shots back to the Korean duo, Kj Choi and YE Yang, in third. Quiros, the world No 23, is made for Augusta and gives the blue and gold cause so much more reason for hope. Martin Kaymer, meanwhile, provided, exactly none.

The world No 1 shot a disastrous 78 to make a fourth missed cut in as many Masters a possibility, if not a probability. “I can’t play this course,“ said Kaymer. No kidding. The German’s playing partner Lee Westwood fared much with a level-par 72, but the world No2 bogeyed the last and was left frustrated with yet another poor putting display. His mood was in direct contrast to that of Woods after a 71.

“I hit a lot of beautiful putts,” said Tiger, looking for his first victory in 17 months. “And they were just skirting the edge, so hopefully they will start going in. But I'm very pleased. I'm right there in the ball game, I'm only six back and we’ve got a lot of golf ahead of us.”

Woods, however, also recognised the quality of the golfer ahead of him. “Rory’s got a lot of talent,” said the last golfer to win a Masters aged 21. “And as we all know he's got a wonderful swing and it's just a matter of time before he starts winning a bunch of tournaments.”

One man with a bunch of green-jackets is the defending champion, Mickelson, and maybe yesterday’s exhibition of golfing escapology explains why. Mickelson hit only four fairways (the fewest out of the entire field), hit 12 greens in regulation and still managed a 70.

This was one back from England’s Ross Fisher - the first man out on the course - and the resurgent Sergio Garcia. Also on two-under with Mickelson is the world No 6, Paul Casey, after four birdies in the last six holes and on level par is the world No 4 Luke Donald, who was three-under for the last six.

Alas there was disappointment for Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell with 74s, while Padraig Harrington latest challenge for a fourth major is all but over after a neck injury sustained while limbering up almost forced him to withdraw. A 77 signified he probably should have. At least Ireland has Rory to cheer on. Brilliant Rory.

Masters details

Leading first-round scores (US unless stated)

65 R McIlroy (N Irl), A Quiros (Sp)

67 Y E Yang (S Kor)

68 M Kuchar, R Barnes

69 T Immelman (SA), C Schwartzel (SA), R Fisher (Eng), B Snedeker, S Garcia (Sp)

70 P Mickelson, S O'Hair, C Villegas (Col), G Havret (Fr), R Fowler, R Goosen (SA), H Fujita (Japan), R Moore, K T Kim (S Kor)

71 R Palmer, R Ishikawa (Japan), T Woods, M A Jimenez (Sp), R Palmer, A Cabrera (Arg), F Couples

72 D Chung, A Hansen (Den), H Slocum, A Cejka (Ger), N Watney, A Scott (Aus), J Day (Aus), R Karlsson (Swe), D Chung, L Westwood (Eng), D Toms, P Hanson (Swe), D A Points, L Donald (Eng)

73 K Na, J Overton, S Lyle (Scot), J Byrd, T Clark (SA), B van Pelt, L Mize, J Jeong (S Kor), Z Johnson, J M Olazabal (Sp), B Crane

74 J Kelly, C Hoffman, R Sabbatini (SA), G McDowell (NIrl), D Johnson, B Haas, M Laird (Sco), I Poulter (Eng)

Selected second round tee-off times

(all times BST; *=amateur)

13:29 Angel Cabrera (Arg), Ian Poulter (Eng), David Toms

14:57 Bubba Watson, Paul Casey (Eng), doardo Molinari (It)

15:19 Justin Rose (Eng), KJ Choi (S Kor), Louis Oosthuizen (SA)

15:30 Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), *Peter Uihlein

15:52 Jonathan Byrd, Ross Fisher (Eng),Sean O'Hair

17:09 Vijay Singh (Fiji), Tim Clark (SA), Aaron Baddeley (Aus)

17:42 Rory McIlroy (N Irl), Rickie Fowler, Jason Day (Aus)

17:53 Mike Weir (Can), Hiroyuki Fujita (Japan), Retief Goosen (SA)

18:04 Padraig Harrington (Ire), Ryo Ishikawa (Japan), Bill Haas

18:26 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Lee Westwood (Eng), Matt Kuchar

18:37 Hunter Mahan, Ernie Els (SA), Francesco Molinari (It)

18:48 Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell (N Irl), Robert Allenby (Aus)

18:59 Arjun Atwal (India), Sergio Garcia (Sp), Robert Karlsson (Swe)

Weather Warm and sunny, with light winds and patchy cloud. Maximum temp: 26C

TV Live Sky Sports 1, HD1, 7pm-3am. Highlights BBC2, 7-8pm

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little