Masters 2015: Rory McIlroy seven shots adrift
An outstanding first round, including nine birdies, puts American Jordan Spieth at the head of the field
Rory McIlroy is seven shots behind the leader after the first round of the 79th Masters at Augusta.
Jordan Spieth, who finished joint runner up to Bubba Watson at last year's Masters, leads the field after carding a brilliant eight-under 64, including nine birdies. Three shots behind the American is England's Justin Rose, who, along with a cluster of four players, finished on an impressive five under.
The 25-year-old McIlroy shot a one-under-par 71 and later described himself as "pretty satisfied" with how the round went. "Anything under par is a decent score," added the Ulsterman. "If I can drive the ball the way I did today, maybe hit a few iron shots a bit closer, maybe convert a few more, I should be OK."
That's assuming the 21-year-old Spieth fails to maintain the quality of his first round in which he became the first golfer since Tiger Woods in 2011 to card nine birdies in a round, with six in seven holes around the turn. "I was excited about the way I struck the ball," Spieth explained. "To make nine birdies out here, that's a dream round for me. It was a lot of fun."
The golf was less fun for Tiger Woods, appearing in his first tournament since taking an “indefinite break” from the game in February.
The 39-year-old was the focus of much media attention when he stepped out onto the first tee, but his lack of competitive golf showed as he bogeyed the par-four first hole. Two more followed as the 14-times Major winner finished on a one over 73, leaving him in a tie for 41st place, nine shots behind Spieth.
Asked what he needed to do to move up the leaderboard on Friday, Woods (who used 28 putts) replied: "Hit the putts harder. Our entire group was fooled with the pace of the greens. The balls just weren't rolling out, and as a group we really struggled on getting the pace right and hitting the putts hard enough."
Among Woods' group was Jimmy Walker, whose fine form this year has led many to tip him for Masters glory, but he also shot a disappointing 73.
One man who ended the first round with a smile on his face was Paul Casey. Appearing in his first Masters since 2012, the Englishman finished with a three-under-par 69. "It is great to be back," said Casey. "This is a golf course I play well and I love to play it."