Rory McIlroy was delighted to salvage an opening 72 in the Masters, even though it left him seven shots off the lead held by American Charley Hoffman.
For the past 11 years the eventual champion has been inside the top 10 after the first round at Augusta National, with Tiger Woods the last player to come from well off the pace in 2005.
And although McIlroy had to settle for a share of 12th after three birdies in his last six holes, the world number felt he remained firmly in contention for the victory he needs to complete the career grand slam.
"My short game really saved me today, especially on 10, 11 and 12, which were huge," McIlroy said.
"Thankfully I managed to birdie the two par fives and another one coming in and even par was a great score so I'm really happy with that.
"I know I did my best out there and I gritted it out.
"I would have ripped someone's hand off for a 72 on the 10th tee. I feel somewhat disappointed because I had a chance on 17 for birdie to shoot under par, but I'm really happy with that and it puts me in a good frame of mind.
"I would have struggled to put together a back nine like that in previous years. I've done the work on the short game and I believe I'm doing the right things. I just didn't want to give up. I wanted to put my head down, show a bit of grit, a bit of determination, and I was able to do that."
McIlroy admitted he was stunned to see Hoffman shoot 65 in the tough conditions, adding: "I thought if anyone broke 70 today that would be an unbelievable score and then to see what he did over the last six or seven holes was incredible golf.
"I'm walking off there after my start ecstatic with a 72 and he is walking off with a 65, but as they say they don't give green jackets out on Thursdays and there is no winning post there.
"I think I'm in a good position with three rounds to go and we will see how it goes."