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Career Grand Slam might have to wait for Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy at 2021 Masters
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a stroke from the No. 2 tee Thursday during the 1st round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Northern Irishman shoots error-filled 76 in 1st round of Masters, marked by errant shot that plunks his father, leading to a bogey

If his first-round play at the Masters is any indication, Rory McIlroy might have to wait another year in his pursuit of the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, who lacks only a green jacket to become the sixth golfer in history to win all four major championships, opened the 85th Masters on Thursday with an error-prone 4-over 76 marked by a comically bad shot that he and his father Gerry won’t soon forget, try as they might (scores).

After having made consecutive bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6, McIlroy tugged his tee shot into the trees lining the left side of the par-4 seventh fairway at Augusta National Golf Club. In an attempt to hit a right-to-left shot onto the green, he flared his second shot right, plunking his father, who was in the gallery near a greenside bunker, in his left side. The ball stayed in the second cut of rough, from where McIlroy made his third consecutive bogey.

“I think he was OK,” McIlroy said. “He didn’t limp away. He walked away pretty swiftly.

“I knew it was my dad when I was aiming at him,” said McIlroy, who quickly made light of the error. “Maybe he just needs to go put some ice on it. Maybe I could autograph a bag of frozen peas for him.”

It was the most memorable of six bogeys on the day against only two birdies.

McIlroy has posted six top-10s in 12 appearances at Augusta National, including a T-5 last year, yet the green jacket remains the only poor fit for the 31-year-old Northern Irishman.

The former world No. 1 is seeking his first PGA Tour victory since Nov. 3, 2019, when he won the WGC HSBC Champions, and his first major title since the 2014 PGA.

“My goal is to play well or at least give myself a chance,” he said of the challenge that awaits him Friday, when he likely will have to shoot under par to have a shot at qualifying for the weekend cut to the low 50 and ties from the 88-man field. “I’m quite encouraged with the way I hit it on the way in. It was just one of those days when I wasn’t very efficient. But I hung in there.

“I was starting to get into a rhythm,” he said. “I wish I could have kept going.”

He will have another chance Friday, when he tees off in the penultimate group, at 1:48 p.m. EDT, in the second round (tee times). If he hopes to join the five golfers who have won the career Grand Slam – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – McIlroy will need to make a big move.

Morning Read's Day 1 Coverage from the 2021 Masters:
Augusta National wins Round 1, by Gary Van Sickle
Don't crown Justin Rose just yet, by Alex Miceli
Rory shoots 76, drills father with errant shot, by Steve Harmon
CBS, ESPN play to each other's strengths, by John Hawkins
Round 1 Recap in Pictures
Round 2 Tee Times

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