Miami (AFP) – Rory McIlroy opened his quest for a third victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina on Thursday with a three-under-par 68, one off the early first-round lead.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman, a winner at Quail Hollow in 2010 and 2015, carded five birdies and two bogeys, to remain one adrift of early clubhouse leaders Peter Malnati and Tyrrell Hatton on four under.
McIlroy, teeing off on the back nine, made a perfect start on his first hole, the 592-yard par-five 10th, chipping his third shot to two feet and tapping in for birdie.
A further birdie followed two holes later, McIlroy rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt after reaching the green in two.
Another superb short iron left him with a simple putt for birdie on the 15th, but a bogey at the turn — finding the water hazard down the left hand side of the 18th fairway, dropped him back to two under.
He regained that dropped shot on the second, hitting a majestic iron to 10ft before stroking home the birdie.
A bogey on the sixth threatened to undo his good work before another sublime chip from the edge of the green gave him another birdie on the seventh.
Three other players were in the clubhouse alongside McIlroy on three under, Aaron Wise, Michael Thompson and Tom Lovelady.
Six players, including former world number one Jason Day and England’s Paul Casey, were a shot back after carding two-under-par 69s.