World No. 2 Rory McIlroy again struggled with his driver and carded another poor score on the first day of the Irish Open at Carton House on Thursday.
McIlroy signed for a two-over-par 74 to trail Sweden’s Oscar Floren by eight strokes.
Floren, 29, heads the field by a stroke after a six-under-par 66 on a rain-softened course on the outskirts of Dublin.
Floren, who is looking for a first Tour success, capped his round by driving to the green at the short par four 13th and holing a 20-foot eagle putt.
“I just came out and hit everything really, really pure,” Floren said.
Five players, Dutchman Joost Luiten, American Peter Uihein, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and former winner Shane Lowry of Ireland, were tied for second place after carding five-under-par 67s.
McIlroy continues to struggle with the driver after grabbing only two birdies, but also carding four bogeys.
He could only manage to hit five of 14 fairways while his score of 74 is the sixth time in as many European Tour events this year he has failed to better par in a first round.
“I drove the ball really well last year and the driver was a big factor to my success and I was hitting long and hitting it straight, but this year I have just got into a couple of bad habits,” he said
“If I miss one fairway, that’s fine but when I’m missing it left and also missing it right, like today, that’s hard to stand up on the tee and be confident,” McIlroy said.
“I am trying to stay patient and I don’t want to say I’m accepting this, but there is nothing else I can do and try to play well and play my way out of this, but it’s just tough when you come to big tournaments like this and you think you are getting somewhere and you are stopped in your tracks, and you have to reassess everything again,” he said.
Lowry showed his familiarity with Carton House, given he has a house on the estate and also represents the County Kildare course on Tour.
“It’s a real privilege to play on my home golf course, stay in my own house and have all of my family and friends up home to watch me,” he said. “What more could a professional golfer want?”
Lowry is playing alongside McIlroy and Bjorn for the opening two rounds and was asked his assessment of McIlroy’s game.
“Rory’s Rory and I would not be too worried about him at all,” Lowry said. “He didn’t get to world No. 1 by not being a great golfer, and I’m sure he could easily go out tomorrow and shoot 65 again and get right back into this tournament.”