Rory McIlroy was relieved to break par after a rollercoaster opening round in the Tour Championship kept his hopes of a securing a payday of 11.5million US dollars alive in Atlanta.
With only the top five at East Lake in full control of their own destiny, sixth-placed McIlroy knew he had to win the final event of the PGA Tour season and see other results go his way to claim the overall FedEx Cup title.
The chances of that looked slim after McIlroy carded back-to-back double bogeys to reach the turn in two over par, but the four-time major winner birdied four holes in a row on the back nine to card an opening two-under-par 68 matched by playing partner Paul Casey.
That left the European pair two shots off the lead shared by FedEx Cup leader Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell and Hideki Matsuyama, with world number one Jason Day alongside Kevin Kisner and Si Woo Kim on three under.
“It would be okay for the Ryder Cup next week I think, playing like this,” McIlroy joked on Sky Sports.
“I’m just happy that the score at the end of the day is under par.
“I said to JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie) out there, I am mixing a lot of bad with a lot of good so if I can eradicate the mistakes. Seven birdies around this golf course is pretty good and as you can see, once I get a couple of birdies I get some confidence.”