Rory McIlroy’s nightmare season continued as Tiger Woods gave him a scoring lesson in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at a toothless Blue Monster.
The struggling world No 1 hit just three fairways as he crashed to a one over 73 on a day when more than half the field broke par and refused to speak to waiting reporters.
Stopping only for Sky Sports, McIlroy said: “It was a bit of a struggle to be honest. Hit some good shots, hit some not so good shots.
“But as I’ve been saying all week, this is a work in progress and I’m working at it and I’m staying patient.
“I’ve got another three rounds here to try and work on it a bit more and shoot a few good scores and we’ll see what happens.”
Playing partner Woods fired nine birdies in a 66 to outscore McIlroy by seven shots and even the struggling Luke Donald beat the Co Down man by three in the day’s stellar three-ball.
“It was as easy as it gets around this place today,” Woods said. “The wind wasn’t up like it usually is at Doral and it was coming out of the easier direction.
“I don’t think we are going to get all four days like this. It has got to swing to the east at some stage and make it tougher. But that explains why there are 50-something guys under par.”
Just 24 hours after insisting that “there are no quick fixes in golf”, McIlroy battled his swing all day but showed few glimpses of the brilliance that saw him win five times in 2012.
For the first time in his career, he did a takeaway rehearsal before every shot but fluffed his lines when it came to the real thing, three-putting twice and hitting just 11 greens in regulation.
He went to the turn in two over with three bogeys and a birdie on his card before a spectacular eagle three at the first got him back to level.
But the demons soon returned as he bogeyed the next three holes and while he birdied the seventh, his 16th, from seven feet, it was the first fairway he had hit for nine holes.
He picked up another shot at the par-three eighth, shaving the hole from 20 feet with his eagle putt.
But it was a day to forget, especially considering how well Woods had played to fire nine birdies and three bogeys in his 66.
The 23-year old Irishman got off to a slow start and had to get up and down from greenside sand at the 10th after bunkering his tee shot right and flirting with water with his lay-up.
He was bunkered in two at the par-five 12th but hit his recovery heavy and had to settle for par before dropping shots at the next two.
His head dropped when he pulled his approach to the 207-yard 13th and lipped out from eight feet. Then at the 14th, he bunkered his tee shot left and took three to get down from just left of the green, misreading his nine footer for par.
A birdie at the par-three 15th, where he hit a glorious 172-yard tee shot to nine feet and curled in the putt, gave him some respite.
But while it was almost news that he didn’t walk off this time as he played the 18th, he left the green two over for his round.
Having flirted dangerously with the lake on the left, he pushed his approach into the first cut just off the green but came up 10 feet short with his lightning quick downhill chip and missed the putt.
He’d managed to hit three of seven fairways and only four greens in his opening nine holes.
But while he started back with an eagle three at the first, threading a 220-yard approach through trees in the left rough to the back fringe before coaxing in the 16 foot putt, his joy was short-lived.
After three-putting the second from 60 feet, he failed to get up and down after a hooked tee shot at the fourth and then three-putted again from 40 feet at the short fourth to put him joint last in the 65-man field. A birdie from seven feet at the seventh and a two-putt birdie from 20 feet at the par-five eighth got him back to one over.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved