Rory McIlroy seven off early Valspar Championship pace after three-over 74

Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot at the 14th hole in Innisbrook in Florida
Rory McIlroy has dropped to 12th in the world rankings after struggling so far this season in the US

Rory McIlroy's struggles continued as an opening three-over-par 74 left him seven off the early clubhouse pace at the Valspar Championship in Florida.

The former world number one's only birdie came as he holed a bunker shot at his 16th hole.

After starting on 10, McIlroy parred his opening 10 holes but a bogey on two was followed a double bogey at the par-five fifth as he drove into the trees.

Then after holing his 10-yard bunker shot on seven, he bogeyed the last.

McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference at Innisbrook that he felt "totally ready" for next month's Masters where he will be aiming for the victory he needs to complete the career grand slam.

However, his round on Thursday continued a disappointing run of form in the US.

The 28-year-old began the season with a tie for third in Abu Dhabi and a runners-up finish in Dubai but he missed the cut on his first PGA Tour of the year at Pebble Beach and followed that with a tie for 20th in the Genesis Open and 59th in the Honda Classic.

The double bogey came at his 14th hole after a wayward drive forced him to pitch out of the trees, before he took four from just short of the green.

Canadian Corey Conners was the early clubhouse leader after firing a four-under-par 67 which left him a stroke ahead of American Kelly Kraft and South Korean Whee Kim.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia had to settle for an opening 70 after dropping two shots in his last six holes, with Ryder Cup team-mates Justin Rose and Luke Donald also finishing one under par.