Rising star Rory McIlroy became a victim of Jack Nicklaus’s famous “Bear Trap” in the first round of the Honda Classic in Florida today.
The 19-year-old was two under par and only two strokes behind Australian Robert Allenby when he ran up a triple bogey six on the short 17th at the Nicklaus-designed Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens.
McIlroy’s tee shot kicked off a bank and was lucky to stay just out of the lake by the green. But, after putting his waterproofs on, his second shot failed to make it up and rolled back into the water.
He was still able to play it, but his next attempt flew into a bunker on the other side and by failing to get up and down from there he fell to one over par.
However, McIlroy, who reached the quarter-finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play on his first appearance in America as a professional last week, was on in two with two superb blows at the 604-yard last and two-putted for a level par 70.
Allenby, who almost holed his approach to his final hole, led by a shot from a group which included world number two Sergio Garcia.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, a first round loser in Arizona, was out in front after a sparkling outward 31, but his only deviation from par coming home was a bogey at the short 15th, the start of the “Bear Trap” closing stretch.
Earlier in the day former European Open champion Mathias Gronberg crashed to a nightmare 89.
Only three months after a round of 64 helped him regain his PGA Tour card, the 38-year-old Swede slumped to a back-nine 50 which included three triple-bogey sevens, two double bogeys and two bogeys.
Gronberg was last by seven strokes from 2001 Open champion David Duval, whose own problems continued when he covered the inward half in 44 for an 82, going in the water on the final two holes and running up a triple-bogey six like McIlroy, then a double-bogey seven.
Defending champion Ernie Els shot 73, as did Justin Rose and Scot Martin Laird, but Darren Clarke’s first round in America since last August’s US PGA saw him return a 70.
Greg Owen, partnering Gronberg, birdied his first three holes and led at that point, but in the end had to settle for a 72.