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licking his lips ‘Big boy’ Rory McIlroy on ‘right path’ again and bullish about ending Major drought

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Rory McIlroy: Strong start in Dubai

Rory McIlroy: Strong start in Dubai

Rory McIlroy: Strong start in Dubai

Rory McIlroy is licking his lips about the Majors next year after vowing to take more responsibility for his swing and trust his creativity.

As Leona Maguire opened with a five-under 67 in the CME Group Tour Championship and Séamus Power fired a seven-under 63 in the RSM Classic to leave them just three off the lead, McIlroy looked close to his very best again in Dubai.

The four-time Major winner (32) combined power, imagination and touch to card a seven-under 65 and take a two-shot lead after the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship, racing to six-under through eight holes on the back of a birdie-eagle start.

While he was twice a winner in the US this year, his seven-year Major drought has prompted him to change his attitude and go back to long-time coach Michael Bannon.

“I feel I’m a big boy now,” said McIlroy, who held a two-shot lead over Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen, South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout and last week’s AVIV Dubai Championship winner, Denmark’s JB Hansen, as Race to Dubai leader Collin Morikawa shared fifth with a six-birdie 68.

“I’ve been around the block a bit. Still, if I have problems or struggles, I should be able to sort them out myself. Instead of looking to others to fix my issues, I’m going to take more responsibility.”

While he followed a bogey at the ninth with just two birdies on the back nine, he made 105 feet of putts and shaped the ball well.

“I’ve always been a very visual player,” said the Co Down man, who worked with Pete Cowen for seven months. “I always see shots.”

Seventh in the US Open was his best effort in the Majors this year and he’s determined to improve.

“When you don’t play your best, I maybe don’t set my standards high enough sometimes,” he conceded. “They are high, but getting into contention in one Major this year isn’t good enough for me.

“I’ve done way better than that before and I know I can again, especially with how I’m playing and feeling like I’ve got my golf game back, basically. I’m excited for those four events next year and excited about the road ahead because I really feel like I’m on the right path.”

Shane Lowry hit 16 greens in regulation but was disappointed to drive into water and bogey the 18th, carding a three-under 69 that left him tied 15th. “I played pretty decent and four-under would have been a decent start,” Lowry said.

It was also low-scoring day in The RSM Classic, where Séamus Power was tied 10th despite making seven birdies in a seven-under 63 on the Seaside Course at Sea Island.

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Power birdied five of his first seven holes before finishing with two birdies to lie three strokes behind Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz, who made eight birdies and an eagle in a 10-under 60 at Seaside.

Graeme McDowell was four-under through nine at the same venue but dropped shots at the 11th and 16th to post a 68 that left him 105th.

At the LPGA Tour’s CME Group Tour Championship in Florida, Maguire opened with a five-under 67 on a low-scoring day in the race for a €1.32 million payday. Maguire birdied her first four holes, bogeyed the ninth but then eagled the par-five 17th from 15 feet at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples.

She was tied 14th on five-under-par, three shots behind South Korea’s Jeongeun Lee, who made eight birdies in a bogey-free 64 for a one-shot lead over compatriot Sei Young Kim, Americans Jennifer Kupcho and Mina Harigae and Maguire’s former Duke teammate Celine Boutier of France.

“Conditions were pretty much perfect for scoring with no wind and some of the tees pushed up, so you had to make as many birdies as you could,” said Maguire. “I stalled for a bit on the back nine, but it was nice to get that eagle coming in.”

World Tour Championship,
Live, Sky Sports, 6.0am

CME Group Tour Championship,
Live, Sky Sports, 8.0pm

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