A ‘groggy’ Rory McIlroy blames caddie’s birthday dinner for slow start, still shoots 66 at 2024 RBC Canadian Open

HAMILTON, Ontario – Rory McIlroy was stuck in neutral during Thursday’s opening round of the RBC Canadian Open, and he had a good idea why. It was caddie Harry Diamond’s fault – sort of.

“A bit of a slow start,” McIlroy conceded. “Harry’s birthday dinner last night so had a couple of glasses of wine. I was probably feeling a little groggy when I woke up.”

With a 7:40 a.m. ET tee time off No. 10, that was understandable.

Could it have been a bit of a rust after a week off?  “I certainly switched off,” McIlroy had said on Wednesday. “I went to one of my best friend’s wedding in Italy for four days, which was a lot of fun, good to see a lot of people from home I haven’t seen in a long time. Yeah, it was actually a really good trip, I needed it. Then I had a lovely, I had a great weekend at home. Spent time with my family and with Poppy and, yeah, it was awesome. So I needed that reset. I’m playing four weeks in a row here, so, yeah, I’m ready to go, but, yeah, it’s been a busy stretch and I’m sort of easing my way back into it. I probably hit a grand total of probably 150 balls last week.”

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After his round, McIlroy offered another reason for being stuck on the par train. He hadn’t seen the back nine this week, having only played the front during the pro-am on Wednesday.

“So I was sort of happy enough to get out of there in even par and not make a bogey,” McIlroy said.

He made nine straight pars to start his round, including at the par-5 17th, where he drove into a hospitality tent.

“Some guy yelled out, ‘You need a wrist band to get in here,’ ” McIlroy said. “So that was pretty funny.”

Once McIlroy flipped to the front nine, he also flipped the script and stuck a wedge to four feet at the first to break the seal. He added three more birdies to shoot 66. He dubbed it “a good day’s work.”

In 2019, the last time the RBC Canadian Open was played at Hamilton Golf & Country Club, McIlroy fired a 61 to win by seven. The next day the course was ripped up for a renovation. Did they Rory-proof it?

“You can’t be quite as aggressive with the second shots, there are a lot of run-offs, there’s a lot of sections of the greens that you have to be careful about,” he said. “It used to be if you missed the green here it would go off into the rough maybe a couple yards but now with all these run-offs it can run 20 yards away from you.”

Whether it was because he was groggy, rusty, or playing a nine that he lacked familiarity with, McIlroy pulled it together to post 66 and sits three strokes off the lead shared by Sam Burns and Sean O’Hair after his first round of his bid for his third RBC Canadian Open title.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek