Masters 2020: Rory McIlroy rues slow start at Augusta as wait for career grand slam continues

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy was left to rue nine poor holes in his opening round as his bid to complete the career Grand Slam with a Masters victory was put on hold for at least five more months.

McIlroy ended in a tie for fifth place, nine shots behind runaway winner Dustin Johnson, despite posting a third sub-70 score in succession with a closing 69.

"I look back on this week and obviously rue what happened," said McIlroy.

"Maybe not on Thursday because I felt I played OK, but that Friday morning."

The world number five added: "After that I played well, I hung in there, just had to shoot a good score to be here for the weekend and played a really solid weekend."

The damage was done in the first round when, resuming early on Friday after a delayed start to the opening day, McIlroy carded four bogeys and just one birdie in his remaining nine holes to shoot a three-over-par 75 - his worst first round in 12 starts at Augusta.

Since 2015 the Northern Irishman is a combined 28 over par in the first round of majors and 61 under in rounds two, three and four and he was all too aware of the problem this week.

The four-time major champion went on to post rounds of 66, 67 and 69 to finish on 11 under, along with South African Dylan Frittelli - four adrift of joint runners-up Cameron Smith and Sung-Jae Im.

The 31-year-old has now finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven years at Augusta but in five of those not really threatened to win it.

Birdies at the third, sixth and eighth holes saw McIlroy make a surge up the leaderboard in Sunday's final round, then on the back nine a dropped shot at the 10th was followed by a further birdie on 13.

"I wasn't really thinking about trying to win the tournament (on Sunday). When I got to 11 under after the eighth hole I saw DJ had gone to 15 under and I thought maybe there might be a chance but then the wind got up and it was just hard to make birdies on that back nine.

"I am pleased with my performance, especially over the last three rounds."

The absence of crowds added to the unique feeling of a Masters in November but in some ways it helped some of the players.

Whether that situation will be the same next April remains to be seen but McIlroy intends to try to maintain his more relaxed approach then when he continues his quest for a Green Jacket to complete a full set of majors.

Fatherhood making McIlroy 'more relaxed'

Also helping the former number one's state of mind is his new life as a father after the birth of his first child, Poppy, in August.

"I'm definitely more relaxed, definitely not as much anxiety or stress," he said of the atmosphere this week.

"I think it has been easier because I get home after I play and my attention is completely turned to something else, it is not really on the golf, I can sit there and play with my daughter and completely get my mind off it.

"It's a little more relaxed and I like this vibe a little better.

"Hopefully we get back to normal Masters in a few months' time but I'm going to try to adopt this approach."

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