Rory McIlroy makes solid start at Players Championship

Rory McIlroy

Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass - round one

-9:
R Castro (US)
-6:
R McIlroy (NI), Z Johnson (US)
-5:
T Woods (US), C Wittenberg (US), H Mahan (US), S Stricker (US), R Palmer (US)
Selected others: -4:
P Harrington (Ire), S Garcia (Spa)
-3:
L Westwood (Eng)
-2:
G McDowell (NI)
-1:
M Laird (Sco)
Level:
J Rose (Eng), L Donald (Eng), D Lynn (Eng)
+3:
I Poulter (Eng), G Owen (Eng)

Rory McIlroy hit a career-best six-under-par 66 at Sawgrass to sit three shots off the pace after the first round of the Players Championship.

The world number two trails leader Roberto Castro, who is nine under after equalling the course record with a 63.

"It's my best score around this course by a long way," he said. "I kept my ball in play for the most part and didn't make any stupid mistakes."

McIlroy is second with Zach Johnson while Tiger Woods is five under.

Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington were five off the lead after rounds of 68, while Lee Westwood matched the 69 of Masters champion Adam Scott.

Two-time major champion McIlroy, 24, who had never made the cut or even broken par at The Players Championship before, was five under after nine holes.

The Northern Irishman picked up five birdies in seven holes, including a two on the famous island green on the par-three 17th.

McIlroy said: "When you hit the shots, it seems very simple.

"I had a lot of good shots out there, a lot of iron shots that were 12, 15 feet away from the pin and I got myself a lot of looks for birdies.

"I adopted maybe more of a conservative strategy off the tee this year. But once you put your ball in the fairway that means you can be more aggressive into the greens. So it sort of balances itself out."

Woods looked set to join McIlroy and Johnson on six under after hitting his tee shot on the par-four 18th into the middle of the fairway.

However, the American's approach found the greenside rough and he left his first chip short of the green and his second attempt left him with a tap-in for bogey.

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