Arnold Palmer Invitational: Rory McIlroy shares Bay Hill lead after superb first round

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won the tournament at Bay Hill in 2018
Arnold Palmer Invitational first-round leaderboard
-6 R McIlroy (NI), C Conners (Can); -5 B DeChambeau (US); -4 J Kokrak (US), Byeong-hun An (Kor), S Munoz (Col); -3 V Perez (Fra), M Laird (Sco), L Westwood (Eng), L Griffin (US), M Fitzpatrick (Eng); V Hovland (Nor), Sungjae Im (Kor), K Bradley (US)
Selected others:--2 T Fleetwood (Eng), M Wallace (Eng), I Poulter (Eng), P Casey (Eng), J Spieth (US) P Harrington (Ire); -1 J Rose (Eng), R MacIntyre (Sco); +2 R Knox (Sco); +3 S Lowry (Ire); +5 T Hatton (Eng; +6 G McDowell (NI)

Rory McIlroy shares the lead with Canadian Corey Conners after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

The Northern Irishman fired seven birdies - including five in a row on his back nine - and one bogey in his six-under-par opening round of 66.

Conners' round included an eagle at the par-five 16th but a bogey at his last hole denied him the outright lead.

US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is one shot back on five under.

Scotland's Martin Laird and English pair Matthew Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood are also in contention after they all opened with rounds of three under par.

McIlroy won at Bay Hill in 2018 and has finished no worse than joint sixth in each of the past four years.

He was playing alongside defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and 2019 winner Francesco Molinari who both struggled badly, with Hatton returning a five-over-par 77 and former Open champion Molinari shooting 78.

Starting from the 10th, McIlroy picked up shots on the 14th and 17th before making a mess of the 18th from the middle of the fairway and showing his frustration by slamming his club into the turf following a clumsy chip from short of the green.

A somewhat sheepish smile was back on McIlroy's face after he holed from 55 feet on the second, the putt having been struck much too hard but hitting the pin and dropping for an unlikely birdie.

There was nothing fortunate about the curling birdie putt McIlroy holed from 20 feet on the third, nor the two putts from long range for another on the par-five fourth.

And after a superb approach to the fifth set up another birdie, McIlroy soon made it five in a row by finding the green on the par-five sixth in two and two-putting from 25 feet.

McIlroy said he approached the course in a similar way to Tiger Woods having watched the American, an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, closely during his career.

"I feel like you don't have to do anything special to shoot a good score here," he said. "You can be really conservative off the tees if you want to be. There's a bunch of irons that you can hit off tees.

"I think the toughest thing about this course is the par threes and I played them in three under today. So that was a bonus.

"But I've watched Tiger enough here over the years and the way he played this course was, he played it very conservatively. He took care of the par fives and that was usually good enough to get the job done - so sort of take a little bit of a leaf out of his book."

Banner Image Reading Around the BBC - BlueFooter - Blue

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport