By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SAN ANTONIO -- When he came to the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, Rory McIlroy knew he wouldn’t dominate a layout that has been second-toughest on the PGA TOUR in most measures the past two years.
Red numbers at the Valero Texas Open would not be the indicator for the readiness of his game heading into the Masters next week. But limiting the bad mistakes that could derail a round was the goal.
Thumbs down, so far, after McIlroy let a good round get away with three straight bogeys as he made the turn during his even-par round of 72.
“I started off well -- got it to 2 under -- then I threw in those silly mistakes I was talking about trying to eliminate,” McIlroy said. “Made two bogeys on the par 5s and made a bogey with a wedge in my hands.”
After he got too much air underneath an approach out of the fairway from 128 yards out on No. 18 (his ninth hole), his ball precariously cleared the creek in front of the green and tumbled back to the water. He was able to drop on the green side of the hazard, but he was chipping for par.
The bogey zapped his momentum. A hole earlier he hit his driver to the front edge of the green 334 yards away and lipped out for eagle. His birdie had him at -under after eight holes.
After the bogey on the next, McIlroy turned downwind from the 25 mph gusts for the next four holes, yet he bogeyed No.1 when his wedge approach from 149 yards settled on the back edge. He failed to get up and down from inside 30 feet.
It was worse on the next hole, 595 yards and straight away. After a 316-yard drive down the gut and with a chance to reach the green, he pushed it right into the rough. From 58 yards away, he failed to get it back on the fairway and couldn’t convert what spiraled into a scrambling par attempt.
Earlier in the round he reached the 561-yard, downwind 14th with a 317-yard drive and 236-yarder drilled in to the accessible front pin to inside 20 feet but missed the eagle.
With the wind continuing to blow this afternoon, it’s likely that 72 will be well within the cut line. So if he takes the track of limiting mistakes, he should be OK for getting more competitive repetitions past the second round and have more preparations for Augusta.
“It’s hard to make birdies out there, especially when the conditions are like they are today,” McIlroy said. “I need to limit those mistakes, definitely more mental mistakes than physical. Just stop doing them. I don’t know; it’s hard to explain. It comes with play. That‘s why I‘m here this week.”