Rory McIlroy Shaky in Opening Round at Masters But Manages to Stay Afloat

The 34-year made four birdies and three bogeys to finish with a one-under 71 in his quest to complete the career Grand Slam. 
Apr 11, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Rory McIlroy reacts to a bogie putt on the no. 2 green during
Apr 11, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Rory McIlroy reacts to a bogie putt on the no. 2 green during / Adam Cairns, Adam Cairns / USA TODAY

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Nothing tends to come easy for Rory McIlroy at Augusta.

Not the opening round, not the gettable par 5s and certainly not the green jacket, which would complete his career Grand Slam and land him in one of golf’s most exclusive clubs. But despite not playing a particularly sharp round on a breezy Thursday afternoon, he’s still very much in this 88th edition of the Masters after signing for a 1-under 71.

“I kept it together. I stuck to my game plan,” he said. “Didn't birdie two of the par-5s on the back, which was a little disappointing. But getting in red numbers was decent.”

McIlroy’s Augusta issues have typically been defined by slow starts—he entered this week a cumulative 9 over par in the opening round of his last five Masters. He improved that slightly this time while making three bogeys and four birdies, which left him six shots behind early leader Bryson DeChambeau with about half the field still to finish their opening rounds on Friday morning.

After a 354-yard drive and a par on No. 1, McIlroy launched his tee shot into the loblollies right of the fairway on the par-5 2nd hole. He blasted out, airmailed the green with his approach and missed a four-footer for a sloppy bogey—a clear “uh-oh” moment for anyone familiar with McIlroy’s Masters history. 

He bounced right back with a birdie on 3, then bogeyed the par-3 4th. He appeared to steady himself around the turn and canned a 15-footer on 14 that moved him to 2 under. 

But he couldn’t capitalize at the par-5 15th and bogeyed 17 after driving near a tree left of the fairway and failing to get up-and-down from behind the green. It was that kind of day.

“A little wasteful coming in,” McIlroy said. “I had a good chance for birdie on 15 in the middle of the fairway and didn't take that. Missed a shortish one on 16 and then the bogey on 17. Probably turned a 3 under into a 1 under there at the end.”

Still, the 71 doesn’t take him out of the tournament, and he’ll have a good look at one of the top contenders on Friday as his group includes Scottie Scheffler (6-under 66) and Xander Schauffele (even-par 72). 

The threesome was briefly followed on Thursday by Greg Norman, one of the objects of McIlroy’s ire over the past two years, as the LIV commissioner bought a ticket to attend this year’s event. McIlroy said he didn’t notice Norman among the patrons, but that he did, however, pay attention to Scheffler’s sterling play.

“When they're playing with you it's hard not to notice. Scottie does such a good job of—it doesn't look like it's 6-under par, and then at the end of the day it's 6-under par. He's just so efficient with everything,” McIlroy said.

“I made three bogeys today, which is fine out there in these conditions, but just need to tidy it up a little bit to try to keep up with him.”

McIlroy has 54 holes remaining, but to complete the Grand Slam in this, his 10th attempt, he’ll have to do more than merely keep up. He spent Thursday evening getting back to work.

“It looks like it's going to be windy again tomorrow, so depending on what time we get back out there again, I'm going to go to the range here and hit a few balls and hopefully feel a little bit more comfortable with everything when we get started again tomorrow.”

Jeff Ritter


Jeff Ritter is the Managing Director of SI Golf. He spent more than a decade at Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine, and in 2020 joined Morning Read to help spark its growth and eventual acquisition by Sports Illustrated in 2022. He's a member of the Golf Writers' Association of America (GWAA) and has covered more than 25 major championships. He helped launch SI Golf Plus Digital, Golf Magazine’s first original, weekly e-magazine, and served as its top editor. He also launched Golf's “Films” division, the magazine’s first long-form video storytelling franchise, and his debut documentary received an Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Society of American Travel Writers, the MIN Magazine Awards, and the Golf Writers Association of America, among others. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. A native Michigander, he remains a diehard Wolverine fan and will defend Jim Harbaugh until the bitter end.