McIlroy cruised to a 5-under 67 at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, kicking off the Race to Dubai with a bogey-free effort that put him in a tie for fourth among the 78-man field, six shots behind Jaco Van Zyl.
McIlroy began on the back nine and promptly chipped in for birdie on his second hole, but he followed that shot with seven straight pars. He garnered some momentum on his inward half, as the Ulsterman notched three birdies from Nos. 1-4 and added another on the par-4 seventh hole.
"I felt like a lot of the things I've been seeing in practice, I started to see on the course today," McIlroy said. "I hit some quality shots. I still hit some shots that were a little loose, but I saw some putts go in the hole. No bogeys on the card is always good."
McIlroy has struggled on the greens in recent weeks, and he admitted earlier this week that the issue is largely mental - that he has begun to make things "a little bit more complicated" than they need to be on the greens.
While his putting showed signs of his old form, notably a 20-foot birdie make on No. 3, plenty of mid-range putts missed the target and three of his other four birdies came on reachable par-5s. The results led McIlroy to reiterate his assessment of his putting woes.
"I feel like it's been more of maybe a mental barrier than anything else," he said. "I feel like in practice it has been there, it's been good.
"I've got a couple of little swing thoughts, which is good this week because it takes my mind off the results," McIlroy added. "If I can just keep focused on these couple of swing thoughts that I have, it's a good place to be mentally. I can just go and try to execute the shots that I want to."
McIlroy is making a rare start this week in Turkey, and he didn't get a chance to see the course until Wednesday afternoon. With lift, clean and place conditions in effect, he opted to rely on accuracy despite a lack of course knowledge.
"I think we played the golf course a little more conservatively than the other guys did, but I was just trying to place it in the right parts of the fairway," he said. "It's all about hitting fairways here, because you can get the ball in your hand."