AUGUSTA, Ga. – When Rory McIlroy teed off Thursday for the first round of the Masters, he was the second-highest ranked player in the field. By the time he finished the second hole, he was the highest-ranked player in the field.
When Dustin Johnson withdrew with a back injury just 20 minutes after McIlroy went off the first tee, that made McIlroy the top dog around Augusta National while in search for the missing piece of the career Grand Slam.
McIlroy didn’t look like the best player here during the opening nine holes, when he made three bogeys and turned in 39. But ultimately, he shot even-par 72 to tie for 12th place.
Luck turned for McIlroy on the par-5 13th hole when he went for the green in two shots in a swirling wind and his ball came up short of the green, but didn't find the water. He was able to get that up and down to record his first birdie of the day.
Two holes later, on the par-5 15th hole, McIlroy laid up and got up and down from inside 100 yards for another birdie. He had a kick-in birdie on the par-3 15th hole when his tee shot landed inside 4 feet.
That moved him to 3 under on the back nine and even par on the round.