Sydney – (AFP)
Jet-lagged Rory McIlroy believes his best is yet to come after opening with a two-under par round in defence of his Australian Open title in Sydney on Thursday.
The world number one, weary after a 4:30am wake-up call for his early start at The Australian course, carded four birdies and two bogeys in an opening 69.
That placed the Northern Irishman one stroke off the early lead midway through the first round in chilly, damp conditions.
“I definitely feel like there is a better score out there,” he said after his opening round.
“I gave myself a lot of chances early on in the round but didn’t really take them.
“I started off OK but in the middle of the round I hit a couple of loose shots and actually made a couple of good up-and-downs for pars, but then made three birdies on the back nine against one bogey.
“Even though I felt I didn’t play that good today anything in the 60s was a pretty good score out there.”
McIlroy is coming off a stellar year, winning two majors (the British Open and the US PGA Championship), a World Golf Championship title (WGC-Bridgestone) and the flagship event of the European Tour (BMW PGA Championship) to finish the season at the summit of the world rankings.
Teeing off at the 10th hole, he turned at level par after just one birdie on his opening nine, at the 459-metre par-five 14th, before handing the shot straight back when unable to save par from the trap on the par-three 15th.
He collected further up-and-down birdies on the first and fifth holes to climb to two under before again dropping a shot after finding the sand with his approach on the seventh.
But McIlroy rifled an approach shot to just a metre from the pin at the last for a birdie.
McIlroy overhauled Adam Scott with a birdie at the final hole to win last year’s Australian Open at Royal Sydney in what was his only 2013 tournament success.
World number three Scott is again his main rival this year and tees off later Thursday.
The world golf’s top player forecast better fortunes ahead as he works towards Sunday’s final round.
“My ball striking wasn’t really there, I guess I know I can just play better,” said McIlroy.
“I’m feeling a bit jet-lagged. It was a 4:30am wake-up call for an early start so I just want to rest this afternoon and make sure I’m ready for tomorrow.
“I’m in a good position right now and if I play well over the next couple of days then I right in there with a chance on the final day.”