The Northern Irishman was forced to end his largely unsuccessful 2017
campaign early as the result of a long-standing rib injury, but it did
not take long for him to get back in the swing of things following the
McIlroy had to wait until the 12th hole to register his first birdie
of the day, but once that one dropped, he rolled in two more to finish
the day just three shots off the pace set by playing partner and
defending champion Tommy Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara.
Notably, McIlroy went bogey-free - something he only managed to do once during the whole of 2017.
"It was nice," said McIlroy. "I sort of knew what I was expecting out
there but at the same time, you never really know. First competitive
round in over a hundred days, so it's a little bit different. But I did
"I stayed patient. I gave myself loads of chances and started the day
with 11 straight pars, so I was trying to stay as patient as possible,
so it was nice to birdie three of the last seven there and get in under
"Really pleased, actually. I played very solid. I think only missed
one or two greens, so gave myself plenty of chances. Drove the ball
well. Iron play was pretty good. So just need to keep doing that over
the next three days and I should have a chance.
"I was excited to get going. The last couple of months have been
really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to
work on in my game and things I needed to work on health-wise and all
that sort of stuff.
"So I feel like I'm nearly the most prepared for a season that I've
ever been, so those couple of months were nice. It was nice to get back
out there and it was a great pairing to start off with with Dustin
(Johnson) and Tommy out there. Tommy obviously played very well and I
was just trying to hang on to his coattails for most of the round.
Really pleased. Bogey-free, 69, can't really complain.
"It's the first day of a long year hopefully, so it's just a matter
of just trying to hit good shots and try to hole putts and move on to
the next and do the same thing. I guess not that I didn't have any
expectations but I think going out there and just more of a, not
learning, but just we'll see how it goes, having that attitude, it
definitely helped, as well.
"My expectation coming into this week was that I could win, but I
think after the first day, seeing where my game's at and playing
alongside two of the most in-form players in the world right now, I feel
like I'm not that far away."