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McIlroy's (67) putter key in first round at Riviera

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LOS ANGELES – For all the attention paid to Rory McIlroy’s prodigious length and pinpoint ball striking, it was the world No. 3’s lag putting that was truly impressive on Thursday at the Northern Trust Open.

McIlroy opened with a 4-under 67 in his first start at Riviera Country Club and was just one shot off the early lead thanks to a deft touch on the greens and just 27 putts.

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“The putt on [No.] 4, for example, on the front right of the green, I was really trying to get that halfway and trying to let gravity do the rest of the work,” McIlroy said. “There was a lot of putts like that today that I felt like I judged very well, and maybe as the week goes on, the greens will get a bit firmer and a bit faster. Feel like I adjusted well today.”

McIlroy’s performance on Riviera’s greens is even more impressive considering this is his first start at the Northern Trust Open and the golf course was dramatically altered for Round 1 because of overnight rains.

“I left myself a lot of longer putts and I felt like my pace was good and I lag putted well,” he said. “All of the things that you need to do around this golf course, I did pretty well today.”