British Masters: Rory McIlroy makes good start after spectator finds ball
|-7 G Coetzee (SA), T Hatton (Eng); -6 C Hanson (Eng), A Quiros (Spa), R Karlberg (Swe), M Ilonen, M Korhonen (Fin)|
|Selected others: -4 G McDowell (NI), M Kaymer (Ger), L Westwood, I Poulter (Eng); -3 R McIlroy (NI); -1 D Willet (Eng); Even S Garcia (Spa)|
Rory McIlroy carded a three-under-par 67 to lie four shots off the leaders after the first round of the British Masters at Close House.
The four-time major winner saved par on the 17th, his eighth hole, after a spectator found his ball in deep rough following a wild drive.
He then holed three birdies on the front nine to stay in contention.
England's Tyrrell Hatton shares the lead with South Africa's George Coetzee after both men carded a 63.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia mixed three bogeys and a double bogey with three birdies and an eagle to finish on even par, while defending champion Alex Noren was a shot further back, scoring 71.
McIlroy, who was a late entry into the event after failing to qualify for the Tour Championship, had four birdies and a bogey in what was a satisfactory start to his penultimate tournament of an injury-hampered season.
The former world number one will bring his 2017 schedule to an early end at next week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Speaking about the 17th, McIlroy admitted he feared a repeat of the final round in this year's Open at Royal Birkdale, when a poor drive on the 15th resulted in a lost ball.
"I thought it was going to be the Open all over again," he said.
"I have hit a few destructive tee shots like that over the past few weeks just by going for it. I know that right miss is in there when I try to hit it hard.
"I was trying to get it to the front of the green and I was in two minds whether to hit it at that point or not because the guys in front were still on the green. I thought I'll just say sorry if it gets close to them."