Golf

Rory McIlroy makes solid start on ‘benign’ opening day at PGA National

McIlroy is three shots off the opening-round pace set by Chad Ramey and SH Kim.

Rory McIlroy hits from the rough on the eighth (Marta Lavandier/AP)
Cognizant Classic Golf Rory McIlroy hits from the rough on the eighth (Marta Lavandier/AP) (Marta Lavandier/AP)

Rory McIlroy hit five birdies as he opened the Cognizant Classic in Florida with a four-under-par 67.

A bogey on the 17th was the only blemish on McIlroy’s card as he finished three strokes off the pace on a day of favourable conditions at PGA National.

American Chad Ramey and South Korea’s SH Kim shared the opening-day lead with seven-under-par 64s – one clear of a group which included England’s David Skinns.

“It was so benign,” said McIlroy. “You’re not going to get this course much easier.”

Skinns, the world number 278 and without a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, had a putt on his last hole for a seventh birdie and a share of the lead.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry was alongside McIlroy on four-under-par, part of a large group which also includes Sweden’s Alex Noren and France’s Victor Perez – the best placed of the final two groups who were unable to complete the final hole due to darkness.

England’s Harry Hall and Ben Taylor, Scotland’s Martin Laird and Austrian Ryder Cup star Sepp Straka were among an even larger group on three-under-par, which included American Daniel Berger who has recently returned to the tour after a 19-month injury lay-off.

Among those a short further back were Robert MacIntyre, who was among those yet to finish, and Justin Rose, whose 69 was highlighted by a par on the 13th after his tee shot came to rest against a mesh out of bounds fence.