Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy content to be four off pace after slow start

Rory McIlroy at the Genesis Invitational
Rory McIlroy struggled with his approach play early on before two eagles tidied up his scorecard
Genesis Invitational first-round leaderboard
-7 M Kuchar (US); -4 KH Lee (Kor), R Henley (US), W Clark (US), A Schenk (US), H Varner III (US)
Selected others: -3 R McIlroy (NI), R Cabrera Bello (Spa), J Day (Aus), B DeChambeau (US), P Reed (US); -2 T Woods (US), B Koepka (US), P Casey (Eng), J Rose (Eng)
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Rory McIlroy was content after battling back from a "sluggish start" to lie four off the pace at the Genesis Invitational in California.

McIlroy, who regained top spot in the world rankings this week, fired a three-under-par 68 which left him four behind leader Matt Kucher.

The 30-year-old had to battle to be only one over after seven but two eagles saw him move up the leaderboard.

"It was a slow start," said McIlroy, who started his round at the 10th.

"I needed to get up and down on 13, 14, 15 and 16 just to save par and then the eagle on 17 just started everything.

"I had [the eagles on] 17 and the first in the space of a few holes. You can make some red numbers there which I was able to do."

McIlroy, who has been working on weakening his grip in an attempt to cut out a left miss, struggled with his approach play early as he missed a number of greens and also put himself in difficult spots on the putting surface.

"It's just hitting it in the right spot. Leaving your ball on the right side of the hole.

"There were a couple of times today I hit good shots but I was on the wrong side of the hole and you have to be very defensive with your putt."

After his early tee time on Thursday, McIlroy will be among the later starters on Friday as he goes out at 19:40 GMT.

The later start means McIlroy, who finished in a share of third at the Farmers Insurance Open on his only previous appearance in 2020, expects to encounter firmer conditions.

"The afternoon tomorrow is going to play a lot differently to how it did this morning.

"It will keep getting trickier with everything firming up and you are going to have to think your way around this place."

The cold morning conditions on Thursday saw a well-struck McIlroy three-wood shot fly only 248 yards when it would normally travel 285 yards.