Rory McIlroy is back and looks to be in Masters form already

Gladys Abbott
January 20, 2018

"I played it off the front foot so I'd get it a bit higher and land it softly and it was just the ideal strike".

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes.

The four-time major victor called an early end to his winless campaign, just the second of his professional career, in October, but reaped the rewards of some hard work over the winter with an opening three-under-par 69.

"I know this course very well", Casey said.

Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar produced 18th hole birdies to survive for the weekend by one shot.

Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood sat two shots off the pace alongside Ross Fisher and Alexander Levy after celebrating his 27th birthday with a 68, while playing partner and world number one Dustin Johnson featured two strokes further back after a brilliant 64.

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"You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important, " Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. Last year's European Tour Player of the Year, Fleetwood has picked up where he left off last season.

McIlroy, too, was pleased with his first competitive round in 102 days though hinted he wasn't surprised by his good display. "It seems like I've got good memories of every hole so it's about drawing from those past experiences. It's not really a debate for me".

"I was just excited to get going".

"I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 miles per hour or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean, " Landry said.

Johnson said he was eager to get back to Augusta National and compete in the Masters after missing the event previous year when he reportedly slipped on a wet staircase and hurt himself on the eve of the tournament. "I go back to work on Monday, when I have nine holes of night golf against a Sweden team who are out here. And then to throw three wins in there and have a couple of other chances... that was a really, really strong run of golf, and I am looking forward to just keeping that momentum going as soon as possible". His ball ended up closer to the pin than either Dustin Johnson's or Tommy Fleetwood's, earning the respect of the tourney's headliners.

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