AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy’s seventh attempt at completing the career Grand Slam by winning a Masters, the only missing leg to golfing immortality, got off to a bad, if calamitous start Thursday at Augusta National.
McIlroy, 31, opened with a 4-over-par 76 to stand seven shots out of the lead at the time he finished his round.
“It’s pretty obvious on TV with how crusty the greens are getting,” McIlroy said. “The wind got up a little bit around the middle of the round for us. It was tricky, tricky to leave the ball below the pin and give yourself a lot of looks for birdies.”
Worse yet, he actually hit his father, Gerry, with a wayward approach shot he pushed on the seventh hole.
McIlroy was already 2-over par when he pushed his approach to the seventh hole to the right of the green, where it bounced and caught his father on the back of the leg.
McIlroy, who’s been struggling with his form and recently changed swing coaches to Pete Cowen, yelled “fore’’ when his shot was clearly headed off-line on No. 7.
His father joked with reporters after being hit, “I should ask for an autographed glove,” which is a custom that players often do when they’ve hit a spectator with a ball. Phil Mickelson is known for not only signing his glove and giving it to the spectator but adding a $100 bill.
There did not appear to be any exchange of a glove or money between McIlroy and his dad.
“I think he was OK,” McIlroy said of his dad. “He didn’t limp away. He walked away pretty swiftly, so that was all right.”
When told of his father’s crack to reporters about the signed glove, McIlroy said, “He’s seen me sign plenty of stuff over the years, so I think that’s the least of his worries. I think he just needs to go and put some ice on (it). Maybe I’ll autograph a bag of frozen peas for him.’’
McIlroy was unable to save par on the seventh and, after carding his first birdie of the day on the par-five eighth, he three-putted No. 9 to make turn in 3-over.
He bogeyed No. 11 to fall to 4-over and, thanks to hitting a shot into Rae’s Creek, he bogeyed the par-5 13th, which is one of the easiest holes on the course, to drop to 5-over. His birdie on No. 15 got him back to 4-over, where he would stay.
“My goal is to play well and at least give myself a chance,’’ McIlroy said. “Honestly, I’m quite encouraged with how I hit it on the way in. I hit some loose shots out there, but after hitting the 6-iron in the water on 13, I hit some really good shots coming in, so I’m encouraged by that.’’
McIlroy’s last major victory came in the 2014 and he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2019.