Rory McIlroy makes strong start at Quail Hollow

Two-time champion three shots off the lead at Wells Fargo Championship

 Rory McIlroy chips on to the  14th green  during the first round of the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow   in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy chips on to the 14th green during the first round of the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

 

Two-time champion Rory McIlroy made a strong start to the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina on Thursday to lie three shots off leader John Peterson after the first round.

Playing tournament golf for the first time since his disappointing final round at The Masters, McIlroy carded a three-under 68 at Quail Hollow in a round that included five birdies and two bogeys.

Starting on the par-five 10th hole, McIlroy opened with a birdie after a fine chip shot from 40 feet left him with a tap-in. A 340-yard drive on the 12th helped set up a second birdie and he also birdied the par-five 15th to get to three under.

McIlroy’s first dropped shot came at the 18th when he found water with his approach shot to the par four.

He got that shot back on the second when another fine approach shot saw him slot in a 10-foot breaking putt for a fourth birdie of the day.

Missing the green to the left on the par-three sixth hole, McIlroy failed to get up and down and dropped a second shot. He took his opportunity on the par-five seventh to bounce back with a final birdie of his round before closing out his day’s work with two pars.

American golfer Peterson birdied the final two holes of his first round to card a six-under 65 and take a two-shot lead over a five-strong group on four under that included England’s Tyrrell Hatton

Three bogeys in a row ruined Shane Lowry’s opening round as he carded a three-over 74 in Charlotte.

The Offaly golfer carded a bogey and a birdie to turn in level-par 35, but a hat-trick of dropped shots from the 11th pushed him out to three over.He birdied the 14th but also finished with a bogey as he signed for a three-over 74.

Séamus Power also carded a three-over 74 but Graeme McDowell made a solid start with a level-par 71. Masters champion Patrick Reed also carded a 71, along with Tiger Woods.

McIlroy, who turns 29 on Friday, was pleased with his performance in an event he won in both 2015 and in 2010, his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour.

“I didn’t play very well yesterday in the pro-am and I went and did a little practice yesterday afternoon and found a couple of feelings on the range. Thankfully I was able to take them from the range straight on to the course this morning, so I’m happy with my day’s work,” McIlroy told Sky Sports.

“I started off with three good tee shots, put myself in a great position on 12 to hit a sand wedge in to leave myself an uphill putt and have a good look for birdie.”

McIlroy paid credit to a new club for his final birdie on the seventh hole, where a delightful chip over a greenside bunker left him another tap-in.

“That was a new lob wedge that I put in the bag this week, I think the new grooves helped me there a little bit, just got a bit more spin on it than the lob wedge I was using.

“It was nice to make four there, I wish I would have made a three on the eighth hole, had a good chance there, but you know, 68 is still a good score.”

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