/ Golf

Rory McIlroy takes first round lead at Honda Classic

Updated: Friday, 28 Feb 2014 13:56 | Comments

Rory McIlroy was bogey free in the first round at the Honda Classic
Rory McIlroy was bogey free in the first round at the Honda Classic

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Rory McIlroy made a stunning return to the scene of his lowest point of 2013 to take a first-round lead at the Honda Classic.

Twelve months after infamously pulling out at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, citing toothache, the Northern Irishman shot a superb 63 to claim a one-stroke advantage after day one.

The tournament - the start of the PGA Tour's Florida Swing - has attracted most of the game's leading lights with seven of the world's top ten in action.

It was McIlroy, the world number eight, who was the most impressive of them, shooting seven birdies in a bogey-free seven-under-par round.

American Russell Henley was second at six under with Rory Sabbatini, William McGirt and Welshman Jamie Donaldson in a three-way tie for third at five under.

The highlights for McIlroy included a long putt for birdie at the par-four 11th and a fine bunker shot at the last to set up another birdie chance.

McIlroy said: "I played really solid. I think the key around here this week is hitting fairways and greens.

"It is ball-striker's golf course. If you can keep the ball in play and give yourself birdie chances, that is the name of the game here."

Dubliner Padraig Harrington carded a 68 to put him two under par, while McIlroy’s compatriot Graeme McDowell finished level par after a 70.

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