By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent, Augusta
Rory McIlroy found himself in a depressingly familiar position as he got his second round of the 86th Masters under way.
Since winning his last major title in the 2014 US PGA Championship, McIlroy is a combined 35 over par in the first round of majors, his latest effort being a one-over 73 at Augusta National on Thursday.
That left the 32-year-old six shots off the overnight lead and facing an uphill battle to win a green jacket and complete the career grand slam, with 32 of the last 35 Masters champions shooting par or better in the first round.
The first-round scoring average of the last 20 Masters champions is 69.2, but McIlroy was in optimistic mood after completing his opening 73 in fading light on Thursday evening.
“I played really well,” McIlroy said. “I think I hit like 12 fairways and 14 greens and just didn’t really get a lot out of the round.
“I had a putt on 14 to go to two under for the day with the par-five (15th) to play and I three-putt that, and that sort of halted any momentum I had.
“I feel like 73 was the worst I could have shot today. I feel like I played really, really well. I don’t really care where I’m at on the leaderboard or it doesn’t matter.
“I played well. I hit the ball great from tee to green for the most part. So I’m pleased with that.”
McIlroy briefly found himself a shot closer to the lead without hitting a ball when overnight leader Sungjae Im started his second round with a bogey on the first, but the 2020 Masters runner-up birdied the third to get back to five under par.
Tiger Woods, who carded an opening 71 in his latest improbable return from injury, was among the later starters.