Shock defeat leaves Rory searching for form
A stunning first-round loss at the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship on Thursday left world No 1 Rory McIlroy pondering how to turn around his poor 2013 form.
Ireland's Shane Lowry, an old friend of the Northern Irishman from their amateur days, defeated the two-times major winner 1-up with the aid of chip-ins at the 11th and 12th holes at Dove Mountain, and an eagle on the par-five 13th, where he hit a fairway wood from 258 yards to five feet.
"I didn't make enough birdies in the end," said McIlroy, who missed the cut at the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi last month in his only other start this season.
"Shane had a nice little stretch around part of the back nine. I hung in there, but I just didn't do enough."
McIlroy said his iron play let him down, but he did not seem to think it had to do with his highly publicized switch to Nike equipment.
"I've just been missing a lot of them right.... I think it's more a timing thing than anything else," he said.
"I felt like I drew the ball really well," he added. "I hit the ball well off the tee. I just need to take advantage of the driving I've been doing."
While Lowry, the 64th-seed in the 64-man field, said he knew "deep down" that he could beat McIlroy, he admitted he was nervous playing the first few holes despite their friendship.
"It was much easier for me to play against Rory than it would have been playing against Tiger (Woods), purely because I just know Rory so well," said Lowry, who had dinner with McIlroy earlier in the week. "It was quite easy that way, but still quite nerve-wracking on the first tee."
Despite their friendship, there was little small talk as the match progressed.
"There wasn't that much chatter," McIlroy said. "We were kind of chatting the first few holes and then it was getting pretty tight around the turn, and the back nine there wasn't much talk out there."
Lowry added: "I tried to keep it that way. I said to my caddie, walking down 11 or 12, 'He's not liking this one bit.'
"He's the one under pressure, I've got nothing to lose, so let's have a go from here."