Rory McIlroy makes sluggish start in Houston

Rory McIlroy, playing for the first time since losing his world No 1 ranking earlier this week, got off to a shaky start at the Houston Open where he dropped three shots over his opening eight holes.

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman, who was replaced atop the world rankings by Tiger Woods this week, struggled to find his rhythm on an ideal day for low scoring at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas.

He bogeyed the par-4 second hole and made a double-bogey 7 on the eighth hole to limp to the turn at three-over.

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The slow start left McIlroy 11 shots off the pace after American D.A. Points fired an eight-under 64 to grab the early clubhouse lead, a stroke ahead of compatriot Cameron Tringale.

Points began his tournament with five successive birdies after starting his round at the tenth, and added another before the turn.

Three more followed on a front nine marred only by a bogey at the fifth as he finished one shot ahead of Tringale, who carded seven birdies in an unblemished round.

Jason Kokrak and Argentina’s double major winner Angel Cabrera shared third on six under with former Ryder Cup player Jeff Overton a shot further back.

England’s Lee Westwood was among a large group at four under while Brian Davis was three under through ten holes, among the best of the later starters along with 2011 US PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

In his Masters warm up, Phil Mickelson shot a level-par 72, three less than Scotland’s Martin Laird, who started his back nine by dropping three shots in four holes.