By Tony Jimenez
British fans, starved of top-notch golf for seven months, turned out in their droves for the BMW PGA Championship first round on Thursday and the main attraction was world number one Rory McIlroy.
The Florida-based Northern Irishman, back on home soil for the first time since October, was less than satisfied with an opening one-under-par 71 and showed his displeasure with the occasional flash of indiscipline.
Defending champion McIlroy tossed his club across the fairway in frustration after playing an errant second at the par-five 17th.
“I felt myself getting a bit angry out there which I haven’t been doing the last few weeks,” he told reporters at the European Tour’s flagship event.
“I just need to stay in control of my emotions because I feel like… if I’m a little tired or a little fatigued mentally I’ll start to be hard on myself.
“I feel like my patience was sort of wearing thin out there today so I just need to try and stay a little bit more patient.”
McIlroy, who lost his cool when he hurled a club into a water hazard at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Florida in March, is playing in his fourth tournament in a row this week, an untypically busy schedule for the 26-year-old.
There was a real buzz of excitement at the start of the round. The gallery was six deep around the first tee and hundreds of fans lined the fairways.
The four-time major winner had to settle for an opening bogey after missing the green with his approach but he bounced back like a champion by sending a majestic tee shot to 15 feet at the short second and rolling in his birdie putt.
He moved one under by sending his approach to within four feet of the cup on the fourth but dropped a shot after missing the green with his tee shot at the short fifth and then reeled off six consecutive pars.
McIlroy, who has already won three times this year, birdied the 12th and 14th but a bogey five at the 13th meant he finished six strokes adrift of early leader Francesco Molinari of Italy.
“I didn’t feel like any aspect of my game was really off today but at the same time I didn’t do anything that good either,” he said.
“Physically I feel fine. I got back to my room in the hotel last night at 4.30 in the afternoon and didn’t leave until 6.30 this morning so there was 14 hours of rest.
“But mentally I could feel myself getting a bit down on myself out there. I need to be aware of that and be conscious that I just need to try to keep everything on an even keel.”