McIlroy leads, Woods struggles at Honda Classic
RORY MCILROY produced a barnstorming back nine, charging home with five birdies, to take the first-round lead at the $6 million Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., yesterday.
A year after quitting the tournament mid-round with his game in a shambles, McIlroy cut a contrasting figure on his way to a flawless 7-under-par 63 and a one-shot lead over American Russell Henley in relatively benign afternoon conditions at PGA National.
Meanwhile, No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods lamented inconsistent putting after he battled to a 1-over-par 71 that left him six strokes off the early lead.
In only his third tournament of the year and only his third time at this event as a professional, Woods said he had trouble adapting to the slow greens.
"I hit it probably good enough to shoot at least three or four lower than I did," the 14-time major champion told reporters after playing in the morning.
"First four holes, I had good looks [at birdie putts] and didn't make any of them," Woods said. "I hit it good starting out, scrappy in the middle and good at the end."
McIlroy had a different take.
"I made a great par save on 9, which kept that bogey-free round alive," the 24-year-old Northern Irishman said.
Buoyed by that 10-foot par putt at the ninth, McIlroy birdied the next three holes and added further birdies on his last two holes, much to the delight of his parents Gerry and Rosie, who were in the gallery.
"It's a good ball-striker's course," McIlroy said.
"If you can keep your ball in play and give yourself plenty of birdie chances, that's the name of the game here."
McIlroy's sizzling start against the strongest field in the world so far this year overshadowed Australian Adam Scott, one of his playing partners on the day.
Not that Scott, gearing up to defend his Masters title in April, started badly as he opened with a 68 to sit five strokes off the pace. However the Australian's move up the leaderboard stalled when he drowned his tee shot at the par-three 15th, the first of three dangerous holes in a stretch known as the "Bear Trap," in honor of course designer Jack Nicklaus.
In other tournaments
* At Pretoria, South Africa, Englishman Simon Dyson closed with birdies on his final four holes to card a 7-under-par 65 and take the first-round clubhouse lead in the European PGA Tour's Tshwane Open, which was suspended for the day by the threat of lightning.
When play was suspended, South African Trevor Fisher junior was also at 7-under after 16 holes, and will complete his final two holes this morning.
Five players were a shot back, including four-time European Tour winner Darren Fichardt.
The host site, Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate, is the longest course in tour history. It has four par-5 holes, including a 685-yard fourth.
* At Singapore, Karrie Webb birdied four of her first six holes en route to a 6-under 66 to hold a one-shot lead over Paula Creamer and Caroline Hedwall after one round of the HSBC Women's Champions at windy Sentosa Country Club.
Angela Stanford was two shots back at 4-under, with No. 1 Inbee Park four shots off the pace at 2-under. Second-ranked Suzann Pettersen was 1-under, while third-ranked Stacy Lewis struggled to an opening-round 3-over 75 and was tied for 43rd.