A week off still left Rory McIlroy a bit rusty at the Irish Open.
Having not practiced much since the Tour Championship, McIlroy salvaged his opening round at the K Club with two consecutive birdies to close for a 3-under 69, which put him three shots off the early pace.
McIlroy suffered back spasms a few days before the start of the PGA Tour’s season finale, and he battled through the ailment to finish fourth at East Lake. During the week and a half ago, he said he practiced only a handful of times to ensure his fitness was the top priority.
Although he said the back injury itself was “not at all” a problem on Thursday, McIlroy pointed more to the effects it had on his preparation.
“It’s hard to say I’m rusty when I’ve only had a week off, but I just haven’t had a chance to practice much and I hit a few loose shots out there,” McIlroy said. “But I managed my game well and scraped it around at 3 under, which is nice and kind of gets me into the tournament.”
McIlroy, who currently leads the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, has a busy stretch ahead with the Irish Open, next week’s BMW PGA Championship and then the Ryder Cup at the end of the month. Although the world No.2 has been remarkably consistent over the past few months – he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since May – he is hoping to fine-tune his game with an eye on the matches in Rome. He said he was heading to the range after Thursday’s round to hit some balls – a promising sign that he is getting back to full fitness.
“More than anything, it’s trusting yourself, trusting your swing, trusting your ability to swing the way you want to swing,” he said. “It’s only been a week between the Tour Championship and here, so it’s not a lot of time, but it’s just the patterns and where you lack it. You get a little more comfortable knowing if you miss it right, you miss it left, where to aim, where not to aim. I just haven’t played a ton over the past 10 days and am a little out of rhythm. Hopefully as the week goes on I can get a little more comfortable.”