Rory McIlroy opened with a 6-under 66 at Bay Hill to secure a share of the day one lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Northern Irishman, who started his round on the 10th tee, finished with just one bogey against seven birdies, including five straight early in his closing nine.
A winner here in 2018, McIlroy cited the tried and true strategy used by 8-time Bay Hill winner Tiger Woods for today’s performance.
“I’ve watched Tiger enough here over the years and the way he played this course was, he played it very conservatively, he took care of the par-5s, and that was usually good enough to get the job done,” said McIlroy, who finished
“So sort of take a little bit of a leaf out of his book.”
Sharing the top spot with McIlroy was Corey Conners, who held a one-shot advantage until a final-hole bogey.
The 29-year old, who also started from No. 10, got off to a terrific start on Thursday with three straight birdies right out of the gate. He added a fourth gain on his sixth hole (No. 15), and followed it with an eagle on the par-5 16th (his seventh) to reach 6 under through seven holes.
The Canadian would play his final 11 holes, however, to even par – offsetting two birdies with two bogeys, including the late dropped shot, to sign for a 66.
“Yeah, I give myself a high grade. I did a lot of things really well today and hit a lot of really nice shots and was able to hole some nice putts, so definitely a high grade for today’s round,” said Conners.
Bryson DeChambeau was one back on 5 under, following a round of six birdies, including a hat trick on Nos. 4, 5, and 6. His lone bogey came on the par-4 11th where he missed a short putt for par.
“I played really good besides something weird that happened on 11, just a little 3-footer I missed, haven’t done that in a long time and I guess I was due for it, I don’t know,” said DeChambeau, who owns two top 5s in his last three starts at Bay Hill.
“But for the most part — I was struggling with the putter. You could see I was really working hard on the putting stroke on numerous holes and that’s just what I didn’t feel too comfortable with, but I was still able to hit the ball on line and make a few putts when I needed to and I was pleased with that.”
Byeong-Hun An, Sebastian Munoz, and Jason Kokrak were T4 on 4 under 68.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Pos-Player-To Par (Score)
1. Rory McIlroy -6 (66)
1. Corey Conners -6 (66)
3. Bryson DeChambeau -5 (67)
4. Jason Kokrak -4 (68)
4. Byeong-Hun An -4 (68)
4. Sebastian Munoz -4 (68)