Rory McIlroy's inconsistent 2013 season continued in the first round of the Masters Tournament on Thursday.
To commence his quest for the third leg of the career Grand Slam, the 23-year-old posted an even-par round of 72 at Augusta National. That leaves him six shots off the pace set by Day 1 co-leaders Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia.
After parring the opening hole, Shane Bacon of Yahoo! provided an update on McIlroy when TV coverage was not yet underway:
McIlroy got to two under at No. 6, courtesy of a wonderful putt on the back of the par-three green.
A bogey at the following hole was redeemed with a nifty birdie at No. 9 in which McIlroy effectively utilized the slope on his par-four approach, drawing the ball close to the cup.
Unfortunately, things went a little south from there. McIlroy bogeyed immediately after the turn, then three-putted to fall back to even at the par-three 12th.
CNN International's Ben Monro-Davies suggested that McIlroy may have had the letdown due to some dreadful memories from his 2011 collapse after holding a four-stroke, 54-hole lead:
Opportunities to score well loomed on the reachable par fives in Nos. 13 and 15, and McIlroy capitalized on those golden chances. However, sandwiched in between was his third of four dropped shots of the back nine.
The Northern Irish prodigy was well-positioned off the tee for the majority of the day, yet he still showed some rust with the putter with a second three-putt at No. 17.
A lack of competitive rounds and resultant up-and-down play cost McIlroy the No. 1 world ranking, which he relinquished in large part due to Tiger Woods' three PGA Tour victories. He did finish second last week at the Valero Texas Open, yet it seems McIlroy's game isn't quite in top form for the major stage.
There is plenty of time for McIlroy to figure prominently into the mix, and his strong ball striking is encouraging. He hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation along with nine out of 14 fairways, although he could have gotten closer on many occasions with short clubs in his hand.
As hinted at before, the flatstick betrayed McIlroy the most, and he finished with 31 putts.
It is difficult to put this showing into context based on McIlroy's most recent efforts at Augusta. Last year's strong first two rounds went to waste when McIlroy faded to a tie for 40th on the weekend, but he's not in command as he was in 2011.
McIlroy ultimately didn't take advantage of favorable scoring conditions in Round 1, and he will have his work cut out for him to get into the hunt for the green jacket entering the weekend.
Below is a look at the top contenders entering the second round.