Rory McIlroy is once again sitting in a tough spot after 18 holes at Augusta National.
The four-time major champion failed to break par on opening day Thursday for the third Masters in a row, struggling to a 4-over 76. He began the fall Masters with a 3-over 75.
McIlroy started Thursday with four straight pars before recording three bogeys in a row on Nos. 5-7. He then found the water hazard on No. 11 and No. 13, leading to two more bogeys. McIlroy's birdie on the 15th saw him finish the day at 4-over for the worst opening round of his Masters career.
Despite the score he posted, McIlroy left the round encouraged with some solid ball-striking on the closing stretch.
"I hit some loose shots out there, but after hitting the 6-iron in the water on 13, I hit some really good shots coming in, so I'm encouraged by that," he said after he finished on 18. "Going to go to the range here and work on it a little bit more, but it was just one of those days where I wasn't very efficient with my scoring."
The Northern Irishman turned around last year's struggles at Augusta by shooting a 14-under over his final three rounds to finish in a tie for fifth. With the clubhouse lead sitting at 7-under this year, a similar turnaround would be needed to give him a shot at claiming his fifth major and completing the career Grand Slam.