Honda Classic: Rory McIlroy pleased with flying start at PGA National in Florida
Last Updated: 28/02/14 12:24pm
Rory McIlroy: All smiles during his opening seven-under 63
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 PGA National, 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 10 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.
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."
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.
"Eleven is a hole, especially today with the wind into it off the right you just want to try and get out of there with a four," McIlroy said. "I hit a pretty conservative second shot, but it was nice to be able to hole that putt."
As for his closing birdie, he added: "I didn't hit a great second shot but I hit a really nice bunker shot there and I was able to finish with a birdie.
"It's a hole you want to take advantage of."