RORY McIlroy made a solid if unspectacular start to the defence of his Honda Classic title at PGA National course in Florida yesterday.
The World Number One, still struggling with his form, collected two birdies and two bogeys to finish the day six shots behind leader Camilo Villegas.
Graeme McDowell had a better day, signing for a three under 67 that left him inside the top 20.
Over on the European Tour, Darren Clarke enjoyed a welcome return to form carding a three under 67 to trail first round leader Darren Fichardt by four shots at the Tshwane Open.
Clarke’s round included three birdies and no bogeys and was in complete contrast to Michael Hoey who struggled to a three over par 75 that leaves him struggling to make the cut.
Fichardt’s round comes less than a fortnight after he won the Africa Open, and thanks to eight birdies and a solitary bogey yesterday, he leads the way on home soil once more.
“I always play well at the beginning of the year,” explained the South African.
“All of my European wins besides France (2012 Open de Saint Omer) have been early in the year. Sao Paolo in Brazil (2001) was in February, and then I won in Qatar (2003) in February and this year the Africa Open, which was in February, so it’s a good month for me!
“It’s funny, because I birdied all of the tough holes and then the easiest hole on the golf course I bogeyed – that’s how this game is.”
Björn Åkesson had challenged his advantage at the top of the leaderboard late on Thursday after a birdie-birdie-eagle run from the 13th saw him draw level, but a bogey at the 17th left him with a six under par 66.
In amateur golf, Ireland’s Richie O’Donovan, Dermot McElroy, Reeve Whitson and Rory McNamara are through to the match play stages of the Spanish Amateur Championship at La Manga.