PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Rory McIlroy took four ingloriously indifferent shots from 105 yards on the 18th hole at PGA National Thursday afternoon and surrendered a chance to not only shoot under par but also conjure some decent vibes amid the slow start to his season.
The No. 1 player in the world and the defending champion, McIlroy opened the Honda Classic with an even-par 70 on the Champion Course he sliced up a year ago and trailed 2010 winner Camilo Villegas by six strokes. The effort, though marred by a sloppy bogey on the par-5 home hole, had him disappointed but not disillusioned with the direction of his game.
"[It] wasn't the nicest way to finish, [but] I saw enough pretty good golf out there to be positive going into the next few days," said McIlroy, who missed the cut at Abu Dhabi and then was bounced from the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in the first round. "Felt OK out there. Not great, but, I mean, it was OK."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. And on a calm day in South Florida when nearly half the field broke par, the 23-year-old Ulsterman, who recently decided to make this area his home base, knew he'd missed an opportunity.
"I think if I've been playing well, or playing the way I know I can, there's something in the mid 60s out there," said McIlroy, who shot four rounds in the 60s last year and shot 12-under-par 268 for the first of his four PGA Tour wins. "Hopefully, the weather is OK tomorrow and I can go out and try to shoot a good score and put myself in position for the weekend."
McIlroy finds himself in good company heading into the second round. His new neighbor and best friend, world No. 2 Tiger Woods, also failed to take advantage of the rain-softened and relatively benign conditions.
It says something about the day Woods endured that the highlight of his round was escaping with a par after pulling a drive into the water on the par-4 sixth. Woods, who rebounded from a pair of early bogeys to shoot 70, had to remove his shoes and socks and his beige sweater, put on rainpants, and splash a 9-iron recovery back into the fairway from where he got up and down.
"I was one over at the time," Woods said, "and if that ball is not playable from where it's at ... looking at a [double-bogey] six, three over, [but] all of a sudden I flip it, make par there and birdie the next."
The remainder of his day wasn't much to talk about as Woods hit nine fairways and 14 greens but needed 32 whacks with the putter. "It was pretty much a boring day on the greens, and I hit a lot of good shots," he said.
Winner in his first PGA Tour start of the year at the Farmer's Insurance Open, Woods is making his second appearance in the Honda Classic, having finished runner-up to McIlroy last year despite a closing 62.
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