ORLANDO, Fla. – From his opening tee shot Thursday, Rory McIlroy was fighting an uphill battle at Bay Hill.
Standing on the first tee, the world No. 2 sailed his ball into the driving range left of the fairway, re-teed, and made par on his second effort for double bogey.
It was a sign of what was to come, as McIlroy continued to miss the ball to the left en route to a first-round 75 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. When he walked off the golf course, he was tied for 106th out of 120 players, nine shots behind leader Jason Day.
“It’s funny. I started missing it left off the tee, and I haven’t been doing that at all over the recent weeks, or even last week in practice, or even in the pro-am yesterday. I hadn’t really been missing anything left,” McIlroy said.
“[When I] missed one left like that at the start, I thought it was just a bad swing, so I didn’t think anything of it. And then I hit one left on three, hit one left on four, missed a few left.”
And missed a couple in the water. McIlroy made his second double bogey of the round when he missed short and well left in the pond guarding the green at No. 8.
Eight holes later, McIlroy again missed his drive left in the rough at the reachable par-5 16th and elected to go for the green with a 4-iron from 237 yards.
“It was only 212 to the front of the green and, again, I’m starting at the right-hand bunker, so I’m starting it 20-25 yards right of the pin,” he said. “The ball was above my feet, and I’m thinking, ‘If it turns, it turns, great. And if it doesn’t, it’ll either be in the front bunker or it’ll carry that front bunker and I’ll have a lot of room to work with for my up-and-down for birdie.
“And this thing just – it started on a good line – but it just turned so much, so obviously I’m getting so much underneath it, and then it went with the slope.”
And again short and left, in the water. “I haven’t hit a shot like that in a long time,” McIlroy added.
Luckily, he managed to get up and down for par from 77 yards and made two more pars heading into the clubhouse to finish only 3 over.
McIlroy will be back on the course at 8:23 a.m. ET on Friday but said he would try to beat some ominous clouds over Bay Hill to get some work in Thursday night on the driving range.
“I felt like I grinded OK out there,” he said. “I scrambled a good bit. I had some good up-and-downs on the back nine. It probably could have been a few worse. So, to end up shooting this, if I get some good work done on the range tonight, and come back and play a good round of golf tomorrow, and get myself into the low, red numbers, at least I’ll be here for the weekend, and I can maybe make a charge.”