Rory McIlroy shoots level par opening round at French Open

Rory McIlroy is targeting a second European Tour victory of the year to add to his success at the Irish Open
Rory McIlroy is targeting a second European Tour victory of the year to add to his success at the Irish Open

Rory McIlroy is five shots off the lead after carding a level-par round of 71 on the opening day of the French Open.

McIlroy, who started on the 10th tee, birdied three of his first six holes and was one under at the turn but fell back at Golf National on Thursday.

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had a triple bogey seven on the 18th and finished three over par with Michael Hoey further adrift on six over.

Twice former champion Graeme McDowell lies nine over after a disastrous 80.

McDowell, whose qualification for the Open Championship at Troon was confirmed last week, posted two double bogeys, six bogeys and a solitary birdie in his 18 holes.

Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard is the leader on five under par with the help of a hole-in-one, with Belgian Thomas Pieters, defending champion Bernd Wiesberger and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee all one shot behind.

Bjerregaard's magical moment came on the par-three second hole, and he backed it up with five further birdies.

Hoey bogeyed two of the par fives in a disappointing opening round on Thursday while Padraig Harrington finished two over.

Consecutive birdies at the 14th and 15th got four-time major champion McIlroy off to a quick start, but he handed them back on the front nine.

Despite not being a spectacular opening to his first visit here since 2010, it was a good return for McIlroy after missing the US Open cut at Oakmont, despite two shots finding the water.

The Northern Irishman was focusing on getting his swing in good technical order, with some doubts creeping in during the round.

"Conditions were pretty tricky with the wind up and there were a couple of mistakes and loose shots in there," said the world number four.

"I've got about four or five swing thoughts out there at the minute, so that's why I'm sort of happy with 71 with how much I'm focusing on my golf swing and my technique."

Bjerregaard's magical moment came on the par-three second hole, and he backed it up with five further birdies.