(Reuters) - Former world number one Rory McIlroy, looking to find his form before next month’s British Open, struggled to a two-over-par 74 in the first round of the Irish Open at Carton House, County Kildare on Thursday.
McIlroy carded two birdies and four bogeys to lie eight shots adrift of the leader, Swede Oscar Floren, whose flawless round of six-under-par 66 included four birdies and an eagle.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, now world number two behind Tiger Woods, blamed poor driving for his indifferent round.
He told reporters: ”I didn’t really get anything going from the start. It wasn’t the greatest day and there are no aspects of my game that are really strong at the moment.
“I just have to keep trying to shoot some good scores and hopefully it will turn round.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Jose-Maria Olazabal had a better day, shooting a four-under 68 while his successor as skipper, Paul McGinley, came in with a two-under 70.
McIlroy said on Wednesday that he had felt “suffocated” by the affection shown him by thousands of fans at recent Irish Opens but he was still determined to enjoy himself.
He promised there would be none of the club-throwing or club-bending antics which marked his indifferent showing at the U.S. Open two weeks ago.
”It definitely wasn’t the right thing to do,“ McIlroy said when asked about his tantrums in his final-round 76. ”It doesn’t set a good example.
“Something I’ve felt in a couple of Irish Opens is suffocated, having that burden and pressure and expectation. But the last couple of years I’ve tried to embrace the whole week, enjoy it and turn all that support into an advantage,” he told reporters at a press conference.
The twice major champion’s form has dipped alarmingly in 2013.
In the last five months of 2012 he won four tournaments and rose to the top of the rankings but after changing his club manufacturer he has recorded just one top-five finish in 12 events this year.
McIlroy announced in October that he was switching from Titleist to Nike clubs in a reported $200 million deal, a decision criticized by many including six-times major winner Nick Faldo.
Writing by Tony Goodson, editing by Justin Palmer