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putt-ing it right Rory McIlroy off to solid start in Florida as he eyes World Championship title

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Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy struggled with the putting gremlins but still opened with a three-under 69 in the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession in Florida.

The world No 8 motored to the turn in three-under 33, knocking a fairway bunker shot to four feet for an opening birdie at the 10th before following a two-putt birdie at the 13th with another from seven feet at the 16th.

But despite swapping his TaylorMade SpiderX for a TP Juno, he quickly lost confidence from short range and missed three par putts inside five feet as he sandwiched birdies at the second and third between bogeys at the first, fourth and fifth.

He steadied the ship by making a six-footer for par at the sixth and an eight-footer for birdie at the next but missed a six-footer for another birdie at the eighth and another chance from 15 feet at the last.

He ended his day just outside the top-10, three shots behind Webb Simpson, who shot a 66 to set the early pace with Shane Lowry among the later starters.

Meanwhile, Seamus Power shot a three-under 69 and Pádraig Harrington a 70 despite the loss of his caddie to illness in the Puerto Rico Open at Grand Reserve Country Club.

After missing his first three cuts this year, Power (33) started on the 10th but mixed three bogeys with two birdies to turn in one-over 37 in blustery Rio Grande.

But he raced home in 32 in winds gusting to 20mph as he birdied the second, third, fifth and ninth for a three-under 69 that left him inside the top-30, four shots behind Tommy Gainey, who shot a seven-under 65 to lead by a shot in the clubhouse from Robert Garrigus, Rafael Campos, Taylor Pendrith, Lee Hodges, Greg Chalmers and Fabián Gómez.

After missing the cut in the Genesis Invitational following his Covid-enforced withdrawal at Pebble Beach, Ryder Cup skipper Harrington made five birdies and three bogeys in a two-under 70 with a member of the resort staff stepping in to carry his bag.

Regular caddie Ronan Flood felt dizzy and was last night awaiting results of a Covid-19 test having opted to sit out the first round as a precaution, revealing: “It’s unlikely to be Covid but I had to be cautious in the current times.”

On the LPGA Tour, Stephanie Meadow opened her 2021 account with a disappointing four-over 76 in the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona to lie eight shots off the pace as Leona Maguire and Annika Sorenstam were among the later starters.

In amateur golf, Golf Ireland CEO Mark Kennelly assured golfers that Golf Ireland understood their “frustration” and was lobbying hard for golf’s rapid re-opening.

“We are engaging intensively with the relevant government departments and agencies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to highlight the safety and health benefits of golf,” Kennelly wrote. “All of you did a great job last year in keeping golf safe at club level.

“That strong track record is really standing to us now as we make the case for golf to be one of the first sports to restart as soon as the public health situation allows.”

WGC – At the Concession, Sky Sports, 6.0

LPGA Gainbridge C’ship, Sky Sports Golf (red button), 7.30

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