Published: Fri, January 19, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

After 102 days off, Rory McIlroy pleased with first round of 2018

After 102 days off, Rory McIlroy pleased with first round of 2018

I only missed one green and was never really outside 15-20 feet.

The four-time major victor called an early end to his winless campaign - just the second of his professional career - in October, but reaped the rewards of some hard work over the winter with an opening three-under 69. "I played lovely the front nine, giving myself a lot of chances".

The Englishman, who won the Abu Dhabi title 12 months ago as part of his Race to Dubai-winning season, set the mark on day one with a flawless six-under-par 66. And he showed no signs of cooling off with his round on Thursday, which featured hitting all 18 greens in regulation. Just sort of did what you need to do well around here to get a good score.

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Authorities took 38 minutes to correct the mistake, which the state's governor attributed to a "worker pushing the wrong button". It continued: "By the way, when we say seek shelter we mean dig a grave because there's nowhere to hide".

Stars likes Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy get their heads down, battling to make sure they are in the running to be crowned Europe's elite player.But, one golfer isn't anxious about the season ahead.

Justin and Jordan: "Quickfire challenge 01:41"[It's] just be a little more careful about what I'm putting into my body and obviously that can dictate energy levels and all that stuff", a trim-looking McIlroy told reporters ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.He added: "I've actually put on about two kilos since October.

Starting on the 10th hole, McIlroy made 11 straight pars, which included a three-putt par on the par-5 18th. "Just a good ball-striking round and nice to start the year off like that". I was just excited to get going. "(Hitting) 18 greens doesn't happen very often so nice to do it around here". "It's another season, a season that I feel like I'm as prepared for as any season I've started as a professional". A bogey-free 69, I can't really complain. "I'm thinking more about playing smart golf and making good putts".

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"My expectation coming into this week was that I could win", McIlroy said. He also spent four-and-a-half weeks in Dubai, tentatively rehabilitating his golf game.He then went back to the U.S. for Thanksgiving, visited his native Belfast and NY over the Christmas break, celebrated New Year at Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland, and went out to Abu Dhabi in early January to practice in earnest."I felt like I needed it physically and mentally", he told reporters. "I was proud of myself the way I hung in there".

Fleetwood and Tanihara lie one shot clear of five others - Ross Fisher, Thomas Pieters, Sam Brazel, Bernd Wiesberger and Fabrizio Zanotti.

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