By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy is driving as well as ever but his putting let him down on Thursday when he ended the first round of the Australian Open seven shots behind leader Adam Scott after shooting a three-under-par 69.
The world number six's problems since changing his equipment this year have been well documented and he arrived at the Royal Sydney Golf Club this week still searching for his first title of 2013.
After Scott's brilliant round, McIlroy's chances of success in Australia already appear remote and the Northern Irishman was left ruing four missed short putts that could have made a huge difference to his score.
"Missed three or four short ones out there," he told reporters after signing for his card.
"Wasteful, yeah. I felt it could have been a lot lower. Off the tee, I'm driving the ball the best I ever have, it's just a matter of being more efficient and scoring better.
"That's really it. I only played the par-fives at one-under and the way I'm driving it, I should be playing those at four-under."
A missed birdie putt at the seventh and three-putt from the edge of the green at the 16th were the most obvious wasted opportunities, while a pair of bogeys shortly after the turn halted his momentum after a solid front nine.
"I got the most out of it, especially after bogeys on 10 and 11, so to get in the 60s was decent," he added.
"It was nice to finish with a birdie at the last, makes up a little bit for not making birdie at 16."
McIlroy felt conditions may have been a little trickier for the late starters after U.S. Masters champion Scott had posted his record-breaking 10-under-par 62 in the morning.
"The wind might have got up for us a little bit this afternoon but still 62 on that course is great going," McIlroy added.
"When I was sitting over breakfast, I saw he'd birdied the first six holes and thought, 'oh nice'."
Scott has had an incredible year, following up his Augusta triumph with a win at the Barclays and claiming the Australian PGA and Masters title before helping Jason Day win the World Cup of Golf for his country last weekend.
For McIlroy, it was a reminder of his 2012 season when he became world number one and won the U.S. PGA and a string of other tournaments.
"He's doing what I did last year and (world number three Henrik) Stenson's doing the same thing," the 24-year-old said.
"I've been in that position before, I know what it's like. That's what I'm trying to get back to."
(Editing by John O'Brien)