Rough start for Rory McIlroy but he's not booking a taxi home just yet
Rory McIlroy knows that you cannot afford to drop seven shots on two holes if you are to go on and challenge for The Open.
The four-time Major winner, who along with Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell has been instrumental in bringing the tournament back to Royal Portrush after a gap of 68 year, had a first round to forget.
McIlroy had a day to forget finishing on eight over, with the bulk of the damage coming at the first and last holes.
“I guess when you play your first and last holes in a combined seven-over par, you’re sort of starting on the back foot,” the 30-year-old said afterwards.
“I got off to a rough start, the ball sort of went left on the first hole with the wind. I actually hit the ball out of bounds right yesterday on the practice round.
“That might have been in my head a little bit, not sort of wanting to leak it out to the right. But I felt like I showed some good resilience after that. I think I played the next 13 or 14 holes at two-under par.
“What I’m disappointed about is I undid all that great work the last few holes. I lost concentration after the missed par-putt on 16, I missed a short one there.
“And then on 18, I hit a tee shot that I knew wasn’t going to be in the fairway, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite as bad as it was. I tried to hack it out back to the fairway. It didn’t come out of the lie, it was a pretty tough hole.
"But, look, it was obviously a disappointing day. I didn’t put it in the fairway enough to play. I kept saying that in the press conference yesterday, you need to put the ball in the fairway here if you want to do well. I didn’t do that enough today to create enough scoring opportunities.
“I didn’t give a very good account of myself out there. And I can definitely play better, as all of you know.
“So it’s just a matter, as I said, it’s simple stuff; getting the ball in the fairway, missing it in the right spots if you do miss it. I didn’t do that.
“You need to take advantage of the par-fives. I only birdied one of those today.
“The things I usually do pretty well I didn’t do today, and it made for a tough start.
"I was nervous on the first tee, ut not nervous because of the expectation. Nervous because it’s an Open Championship.
“I usually get nervous on the first tee anyway, regardless of where it is. So maybe a little more so today than other places.
"But I don’t think it was that. It was a bit of a tentative golf swing with a hard wind off to the right and the ball just got going left on me.
So does McIlroy see a way back for him from here?
“Definitely a way back to Florida,” he joked.
“Look, I definitely think if I can put the ball in the fairway tomorrow I can shoot a good enough score to be around for the weekend.
“Obviously I’m pretty sure anyone starting with a 79 in this golf tournament doesn’t think about winning at this point.
“But I think I can go out there and shoot something in the mid-60s, be around for the weekend, and then try to play good from there,” added McIlroy.