Rory McIlroy and 17 other top golfers are in Thousand Oaks, Calif. for the 2013 Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, which takes place between Thursday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 8 at the Sherwood Country Club.
Tiger Woods is hosting the tournament, and the five-time winner will also be competing, along with last year's champ Graeme McDowell, rookie sensation Jordan Spieth, PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner, Australian Jason Day, 2012's Masters winner Bubba Watson and others.
After a disappointing 2013 campaign in which nary a single victory was earned, McIlroy got his 2014 season started on a good note, finishing in sixth place at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in November. He then outlasted Adam Scott to win the Australian Open last weekend.
McIlroy has appeared at this tournament only once before, back in 2010 when he finished in fourth place.
So, how did he do this year? Keep reading to find out.
Rory McIlroy finished the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in 11th place by himself after shooting a two-under-par round of 70 on Sunday at Sherwood Country Club.
It was his second round under par in a row after opening the tournament with two round above par, which is a positive sign. However, considering the event only featured 18 players, 11th place wasn't what McIlroy was looking for.
Zach Johnson took down Tiger Woods in an epic playoff to win the event.
Here's a look at the leaderboard, courtesy of PGATour.com:
|Pos.||Golfer||Total||Rd. 1||Rd. 2||Rd. 3||Rd. 4|
As had been the case all weekend long, McIlroy couldn't stay consistent, matching bad scores with good ones.
He started out the day on a positive note, making birdie at No. 3 and No. 7, but he got back to even par by the time he walked off the 10th green after making bogeys on No. 9 and No. 10.
Two more bogeys marred an otherwise brilliant back nine, but the Northern Irish star made up for them by birdying the final two holes to get back to even par for the tournament.
It wasn't the finish McIlroy wanted, but he'll take it after starting out the weekend so poorly on Thursday and Friday.
After disappointing opening rounds of 73 and 77, Rory McIlroy bounced back in typical McIlroy fashion. The resilient and streaky golfer posted the lowest score of the day at the Northwestern Mutual with a four-under 68.
That 68 would have been even lower were it not for a double bogey on the par-three 15th.
The double came after a string of three straight birdies. McIlroy added another birdie on the par-three 17th to help him to a two-under 34 on the back to match his two-under 34 on the front.
Despite his improved play, McIlroy is still looking a long way up the leaderboard to Tiger Woods.
Obviously, I don't expect McIlroy to make up 13 strokes and pass Woods for the win. That doesn't mean Sunday isn't important, however. McIlroy must continue to groove his swing and prolong stretches of good play.
Rory McIlroy did not improve upon his lackluster 73 in the opening round. In fact, he got noticeably worse.
The Northern Irishman fired a 77. Check out the leaders and then we'll discuss McIlroy's day.
Maybe he doesn't like the cold?
For the second straight round, the start of play was delayed by frosty conditions. McIlroy was able to par the first three holes in the cold, but the fourth hole did him in. He double bogeyed the fourth.
He steadied to finish out the front side at one-over. His game quickly went downhill on the back. McIlroy birdied the 11th and then suffered a bogey on three straight holes. A birdie on No. 15 gave him hope for a strong finish, but those hopes were completely derailed when he picked up a nine on the par-five 16th.
As only McIlroy can do, he shook off the disastrous hole for a birdie on No. 17, which helped card a 77.
In his quest to regain some semblance of consistency, McIlroy must find a way to play the final two rounds under par.
McIlroy's first round at Sherwood CC left him in a tie for eighth place after he finished his round with a score of one over par—six shots off the lead, set by Zach Johnson.
Before he could even tee off, however, McIlroy and the rest of the field had to wait for Mother Nature to cooperate. As PGA Tour Media on Twitter reported, the opening round was delayed an hour due to frost:
Due to frost, the start to R1 of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge is delayed by 1 hour, and is set to now begin at 10:30am PT.— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) December 5, 2013
Here's a look at the current leaderboard, followed by a closer look at McIlroy's performance on Thursday:
The young superstar got his opening round started with a par on the first hole and a birdie on the second, which momentarily moved him into second place behind McDowell, who was two under par at the time:
Graeme McDowell -2 Rory McIlroy -1 Ian Poulter E Lee Westwood E Jason Day E #NorthwesternMutualWorldChallenge— WWFS (@WWFantasySports) December 5, 2013
Unfortunately, McIlroy gave that stroke right back to the field just two holes later, making bogey at No. 4.
This up-and-down trend continued throughout the day, as well.
After making birdie on No. 5 to move to one under par for his round, McIlroy bogeyed his next two holes before finally righting the the ship with a birdie on No. 10. At the time, the birdie moved him to within two shots of the lead:
But as had been the case all afternoon, McIlroy couldn't keep the positive momentum going. He scored his fourth bogey of the round on the par-three 15th hole to move back to one over par. Three pars to close out his round kept his score from ballooning further, but the damage had already been done.
As McIlroy struggled, first-round leader Johnson heated up. At the conclusion of his round, McIlroy was six shots behind him. He needs a strong second round to get himself in position for a push up the leaderboard over the weekend.