Rory McIlroy enjoyed a positive start in the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

McIlroy shot an opening round 69 to sit on three under, three shots off leader and twice major champion Angel Cabrera, who conjured up some of his old magic to seize the lead with a six-under-par 66 at the $6.9m Quail Hollow event.

Padraig Harrington was also on three under par going down the 17th. But he made double bogey on that hole and a further bogey on 18, and had to settle for a level-par round of 72.

Darren Clarke is the only other Irishman in the field and shot a disappointing four over 76.

The long-hitting Cabrera from Argentina reeled off four successive birdies around the turn to finish two strokes in front of Americans Phil Mickelson and Martin Flores.

Fellow Americans Webb Simpson, Jonathan Byrd and Stewart Cink are one shot further back on four under, alongside Scotland’s Martin Laird.

German Martin Kaymer notched the rare feat of consecutive eagles to join a large group on 69 that also included former world number one McIlroy.

Cabrera, 44, has made few headlines since losing a playoff to Adam Scott at last year's Masters but he is still capable of matching it with the game's best on any given day.

"I played very well on the greens and saved myself on the holes that I didn't play so well," Cabrera, whose only two PGA Tour victories came at the highest level with the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters, told reporters.

Kaymer, meanwhile, could not remember ever having previous scored successive eagles.

"I don't think I've ever done that before," the German said of his accomplishment, which occurred at the par-five seventh, where he sank a 15-footer, and the par-four eighth, where he holed out from the rough from 65 yards.

He considered his two eagles were just reward for an otherwise frustrating day on the greens.

"I missed a lot of short putts today," he said. "I stayed in the tournament but overall it would have been nice to get a couple more shots here and there."

Kaymer was ranked number one in the world barely three years ago, but has since slipped to 63rd.