World number one Rory McIlroy was struggling to reproduce his Ryder Cup form on the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday.
McIlroy was an approximate eight under par in beating Rickie Fowler 5&4 in the singles at Gleneagles as Europe defeated the United States for the eighth time in the last 10 events.
But the 25-year-old failed to register a single birdie in the first 12 holes of his first round in the pro-am event which is played over the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Carnoustie is traditionally the hardest of the three courses but was playing relatively easy in benign conditions, with the top four on the leaderboard all at the Open Championship venue.
France’s Raphael Jacquelin had record four birdies and an eagle to lead the way on six under par after 13 holes, one ahead of compatriot Alexander Levy, England’s Oliver Wilson and Ryder Cup vice-captain Padraig Harrington, who won the first of his back-to-back Open titles at Carnoustie in 2007.
McIlroy had recorded one bogey on the sixth and 11 pars to place in jeopardy his ambition to win a fifth tournament this year and also make the cut in the team event, thereby allowing his amateur partner – his father Gerry – to play the Old Course at St Andrews on his 55th birthday on Sunday.
Ryder Cup team-mates Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher were also playing Carnoustie, Kaymer one over par after 11 holes but Gallacher one under after eight and Dubuisson level par at the turn.
McIlroy finally registered a birdie on the par-five 14th but bogeyed the 16th and eventually signed for a one-over-par 73, nine shots behind clubhouse leader Oliver Wilson, who had fired a 64 on the same course.
“A little bit flat, if I’m honest,” McIlroy said when asked about his round. “Obviously with the crowds and everything we were playing in front of last week, to come here it seems a little quiet out there, but it was fun to get to play with my dad.
“I wish I had played a bit better and made a few more birdies but hopefully that will happen over the next couple of days.
“I want to win every week and I want to play well this week and at least give myself a chance. It was not the best score out there for me but we got the hardest course out of the way.”