Rory McIlroy 'proud' of response to setback in Hero World Challenge

Rory McIlroy secured a share of the first-round lead on his Hero World Challenge return despite having a double-bogey 7 on his card at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

Rory McIlroy during the first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

The four-time major winner, who is appearing in an event hosted by Tiger Woods for the first time since 2014, carded a six-under-par 66 to set the pace along with American Daniel Berger and Mexican Abraham Ancer.

Playing with Open champion Collin Morikawa, McIlroy birdied the second, fourth and fifth before running up his 7 at ninth after finding water with his second shot.

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But, after using the walk to the next tee to regroup, he birdied 10th and 11th before chipping in for an eagle-2 at 14th then adding a birdie at the par-5 15th.

The splendid effort came in McIlroy’s first outing since he ripped his shirt in frustration after a poor finish in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai less than a fortnight ago.

“I was really proud of myself today,” said the 32-year-old of how he’d responded to a setback on this occasion, describing how he’d played the ninth as “messy”.

He added: “Yeah, happy with how I responded on the back nine after that. Played the back nine in five-under-par.

“It was a nice little response to play the back nine the way I did and put myself back in the tournament.”

The one disappointment for the Northern Irishman was that he was level-par for the five par-5s on the Ernie Els-designed course.

“I should be taking care of those, so that's something I'm going to need to do over the next three days because I can't rely on doing what I did today,” he admitted.

I made three 2s out there, one on a par 4. I need to take care of the par 5s just to make it a little more stress free.”

Since having a disappointing Ryder Cup, McIlroy had won the CJ Cup on the PGA Tour and given himself another chance to win in the European Tour’s season-ending event in the UAE.

“I really turned a corner after the Ryder Cup,” he said. “The three starts since the Ryder Cup have been really good, I've shot some good scores, low scores.

“The game's feeling a lot better and it's just a chance to get into contention and feel, you know, whatever it is you feel on Sunday when you're trying to win a golf tournament.”

Morikawa, who will replace Jon Rahm as world No 1 with a win on Sunday, opened with a 68, one better than Bryson DeChambeau after he finished with a double-bogey 6.

Justin Thomas suffered the same fate at the 18th to sit one off behind the three leaders after he’d been out in front standing on the tee.

Thomas sits alongside Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson, with Patrick Reed, Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau alongside Morikawa on four-under. Reed had been two-over at one point in his round.

Henrik Stenson, the winner the last time the event was held in 2019, had to settle for a level-par 72.

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