Rory McIlroy is one shot off the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina after a solid first round on Thursday.
McIlroy’s shot a 68 in his first tournament since last month’s Masters, where he finished fifth despite starting the final round in second place.
And with five birdies and two bogeys he made a fine start to the tournament where he is seeking a hat-trick, standing just one off the early lead shared by England’s Tyrrell Hatton, Peter Malnati, Johnson Wagner, Keith Mitchell and Kyle Stanley
And McIlroy was pleased with his first round score.
“Boy, I would have taken that score this morning,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t play well in the pro-am. I was hitting it left and thought it was because I was getting underneath it. But I wasn’t at all.
“The clubface was coming a touch left at impact, and then with the speed that I have, it just accentuates it.
“You know, I love this place. I feel I don’t have to play that well and can still get it around. It’s a very comfortable course for me.”
McIlroy also clarified the comments made in his pre-tournament conference in which he said: “I don’t care about the US Open or The Open Championship – The Masters is now the biggest tournament in the world,” he predictably came under fire.
“I didn’t mean ‘I don’t care’ in that sense - of course I care,” McIlroy said. “
“I’m a very proud winner of both of those majors. I was trying to say if you look at where the US Open and the Open were compared to the Masters 50 years ago, they were bigger.
“Now, after everything that’s happened... I just think it’s just a notch above the other ones. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful at all.”
“The course is a little easier than it was last August in the PGA,” he said. “Even if you don’t hit it quite so well, you can still get away with it most times.”
There was disappointment for Shane Lowry who had five bogeys in total as he struggled around in three-over par, leaving him in danger of missing the weekend cut. Graeme McDowell and Seamus Power are among the late starters in Charlotte.