Rory McIlroy finds putting touch at Riviera

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy’s first ever appearance at the Northern Trust Open got off to a solid start on Thursday.

The world number three has played some promising golf in Europe this year but is still searching for a first victory of the season.

He got that bid off to a good start at Riviera GC in California, carding a four-under-par 67 to leave him a shot off the lead.

The Holywood golfer, who started his round at the 10th, recorded five birdies and just the one dropped shot on a course that had been softened up by overnight rain.

The key to Rory’s score was a fine performance on the greens. He finished the day with just 27 putts.

“The putt on [No.] 4, for example, on the front right of the green, I was really trying to get that halfway and trying to let gravity do the rest of the work,” said Rory.

“There was a lot of putts like that today that I felt like I judged very well, and maybe as the week goes on, the greens will get a bit firmer and a bit faster. Feel like I adjusted well today.

“I left myself a lot of longer putts and I felt like my pace was good and I lag putted well. All of the things that you need to do around this golf course, I did pretty well today.”

Chez Reavie, Bubba Watson and Luke List were top of the leaderboard, with the American trio all ending the day five-under-par.

Scotland’s Martin Laird ended the day three-under and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose was joint-17th on two-under. Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, opened his account with a level par 71.

Meanwhile, over the European Tour, Danny Willett made the most of some good fortune to enjoy an ideal start in his bid for back-to-back victories in the inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia.

Willett was one over par after seven holes of his opening round in Kuala Lumpur, but birdied the eighth and ninth before coming home in 31 to card a six-under-par 65 and lie one shot behind clubhouse leader Nathan Holman.

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley carded one over par 72s with Michael Hoey signing for a six over 77.