Rory McIlroy the bogey man is rescued by
some birdies in Miami

World No 1’s 73 could have been worse as his troubles continue while Woods flourishes


No jokes about pulling teeth, please, or staying the course. Rory McIlroy is a reluctant traveller, deriving little enjoyment from a game that tortures like few others when rhythm is lost. McIlroy endured another up and down day in Miami, the search for green shoots ongoing as he wrestles a brittle confidence that teeters on the brink of collapse with every duff shot.

McIlroy posted a first-round 73 but it could have been worse. He eagled his 10th and was still three over par with three holes of the Blue Monster course to play, but birdied two of them to finish seven behind playing partner and clubhouse leader Tiger Woods.

However, the automatic impulse that fired McIlroy to two majors and top of the world rankings is a distant memory. And so he delivered another circumspect display at Doral, peppered by the now familiar shrugs and sighs.  His Honda Classic withdrawal last week heightened the scrutiny, if that is possible. Even on the putting green McIlroy warms up as if he has one eye on the ball and the other on the audience. This transfers to the range, where his practice cannot escape the critical dimension in the stands, deconstructing his every shot.

In this state of uncertainty the walk to the opening tee is a trial from which there is no protection. He said he was determined to maintain a sense of perspective during this dip in form, but there is little joy to be had when the ball is not doing what you want it to. His opening tee shot found the sand, his pulled escape narrowly avoided the water and his third ended in a greenside bunker. What for many was a comfortable birdie hole became a desperate par save for McIlroy. Starting on the back nine, he held it together for three holes before posting his first bogey at the par-3 13th after pulling his tee shot. He dropped another at the next when he found a fairway bunker off the tee. This might not have been catastrophic had it been anyone else. When his third playing partner Luke Donald hit his opening tee shot into a lake there was no thoughts of crisis. Similarly when Woods gave back successive shots at 13 and 14 after early birdies, no one called for the fire brigade.

McIlroy’s misses were not huge. It was the chronic lack of confidence as much as technique that was slowly killing his round. There was respite with a birdie at the short 15th and out of the blue an eagle at the first to return him to level par. When he was knocking down pins at the end of last year that would have been the signal to gallop on. Not here. A hat-trick of bogeys took him to the back of the field.

Woods, meanwhile, went marching on. How maddening this game is. A week ago at the Honda Classic Woods crept into the weekend on level par and closed the event well adrift on four over par. At Doral, a course on which he has won six times, the putts dropped, transforming the tournament landscape for the world No 2. It was not all pretty. There were two chunked greenside chips that failed to make the putting surface, and a two-putt from four feet at 13.

But birdies flew in at a rate almost unprecedented even for him. There were nine, one short of his personal best and good enough for a 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on -6. With a month to the Masters, some bookies will be paying out on a Woods 15th major title already. Despite his failures last week he started this tournament as favourite. It was ever thus. 

Donald closed his front nine as he started it, driving into the same lake he found at the tenth. The result was a double bogey 6. He followed that with a hat-trick of birdies, as you do when setbacks are not taken personally and the temperature of your swing is not taken after every shot. Donald closed a respectable two under par, the odd alarm quietened by his unique brand of accumulation by stealth. That is one luxury genetically unavailable to McIlroy. At least he limited the damage with a couple of birdies coming in to close on one over par.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn