McIlroy finds form quickly, opens year with 66


ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – It’s been two months and a laser eye surgery since Rory McIlroy last hit a shot that counted, but he seemed to pick up right where he left off on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

The Northern Irishman, who closed last year with a victory just up the road in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship, opened with a 6-under 66 for a share of third place in his first round of the year, but then he’s no stranger to fast starts.

He has started his year in Abu Dhabi each of the last nine seasons and has a first-round scoring average of 69 and four runner-up finishes.

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“There's been times where it's taken me at least four or five days to find the middle of the clubface, and there's been times where it's taken me a couple of hours and I'm right back into it,” McIlroy said. “This time it was closer to the latter. It was very quick.”

For McIlroy, he said his solid play is just a continuation of what he’s been doing since he arrived in the United Arab Emirates two weeks ago to begin preparing for 2016.

“This is the way I've been hitting it in practice. It's the way I've been playing. It's the way I've been feeling out on the golf course,” said McIlroy, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 greens in regulation on Thursday. “I keep saying, there's no reason why I can't bring that confidence from the range and practice rounds into the real thing, and today I was able to do that.”