Golf: McIlroy in front with six others

World No 2 Rory McIlroy was one of seven players sharing the lead on five-under 67 yesterday after the first round of the US PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

The weather-damaged greens that raised concerns before the tournament didn't prevent more than 50 players breaking par as cool, overcast weather made for good scoring despite some patchy putting surfaces.

"They're not the best greens we've ever putted on, but they're certainly not the worst, either," said McIlroy, who had his first US PGA Tour victory at this event in 2010 and finished runner-up to Rickie Fowler in a playoff last year.

"The ball still rolls pretty well on them," he said.

The Northern Irishman powered up the leaderboard with four birdies in a row starting at the par-5 fifth.

He sandwiched birdies at 10 and 11 between bogeys at the ninth and 12th, but joined the group sharing the clubhouse lead with a birdie at 18.

McIlroy was joined on 67 by Ryan Moore, Robert Garrigus, Nick Watney, Nate Smith, Derek Ernst and Daniel Summerhays.

Phil Mickelson, who finished second behind McIlroy in 2010, was among six players tied on 68, with 2011 winner Lucas Glover, Boo Weekley, Zach Johnson, Kevin Streelman and Jason Kokrak.

Australians Steven Bowditch and Rod Pampling were among nine players on 69.

Fellow Australians John Senden and Scott Gardiner had 70s, Stuart Appleby had a 71, followed by Matt Jones (73) and Geoff Ogilvy (74).

Glover said there were some unexpected outcomes on the greens, but nothing too damaging. "I had some bounce in and I had some bounce out, but it evens out eventually," Glover said.

"All you can do on any green is try to hit it where you're looking," added Watney. "The greens may be a little bouncy, but most of the time, if you hit a good putt it's going to go in."

McIlroy, playing for the first time since tying for 25th in the Masters, was to tee off early today, when the course was likely to be receptive.

He said work with coach Michael Bannon had him feeling "a lot more comfortable" with his swing.

"I got into a couple of bad habits with my swing, and it just took me a little bit of time to get out of them," he said. "But now that I feel like I'm swinging it well ... this is the sort of golf I expect to play."

- AFP

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