MIAMI (AFP) – Rory McIlroy got off to another hot start at Bay Hill on Thursday, firing a first-round 65 to take a two-shot lead in the US PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Northern Ireland star, who won the event in Orlando in 2018 and has top-10 finishes in his last five appearances, had a two-shot lead with afternoon starters still on the course.
“I feel there’s a nice flow to this golf course where you can really build a score,” McIlroy said.
“You have par-fives, one every few holes, and you’ve got a couple of scorable par-fours. As long as you don’t do anything stupid and you keep it in play, you feel like you can sort of methodically build a score on this golf course.
“I played the par-fives particularly well, and that was the bulk of the score,” added McIlroy, who had three birdies and a 41-foot eagle putt to play the four par-fives in five-under.
McIlroy teed off on 10 and missed an eight-foot birdie chance at his opening hole. He was unable to get up and down from off the green and made bogey at 11.
But he followed a two-putt birdie at the par-five 12th by a birdie from the fringe at 13.
He rolled in his 41-foot eagle putt at 16 then birdied 18 to make the turn four-under.
Back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth saw him grab the solo lead and he made his last birdie of the day at the par-five sixth.
McIlroy said iron play was the key to his success on the par-fives.
“I hit a four-iron into 12 and a four-iron into 6. They were probably two of the best long irons I hit in a while. So when I start hitting long irons like that, I know my swing’s in a pretty good place. Seeing shots like that certainly gives me some confidence.”
Three players – Beau Hossler, JJ Spaun and former FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel – shared second on five-under par 67.
Spaun had five birdies without a bogey, Hossler bagged six birdies and Horschel had five birdies and an eagle at 16 – where he landed his second shot 10 feet from the pin.