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Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell both in contention after impressive first rounds at Arnold Palmer Invitational


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Rory McIlroy bounced back from an early bogey with a stunning back nine at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Rory McIlroy bounced back from an early bogey with a stunning back nine at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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Rory McIlroy bounced back from an early bogey with a stunning back nine at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are both in contention after impressive opening rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy held the clubhouse lead for much of day one after carding a six under par morning 66, saying he would spend the afternoon at Disney's Magic Kingdom after a fairytale back nine, coming home in a five under par 31.

He was eventually knocked off top spot by late starter Matt Every, who carded a seven under par 65.

Also impressive in the windy afternoon conditions was McDowell, round in 68 to finish three shots behind in a tie for fifth.

The Portrush man dropped an early shot at the second but made amends with birdies at the fourth and sixth to make the turn in one under, albeit thanks to an impressive 25 foot par save on eight.

It was on the back nine that the 2010 US Open champion made his charge, opening up with three birdies in four holes before trading a drop shot on the 15th for a closing birdie.

Conversely, the bogey was arguably the most important save of his day, having paid a visit to two greenside bunkers before holing out from 24 feet to prevent double.

A high placed finish could prove highly significant for the world number 50, who needs to remain inside that same mark at the end of the month to qualify for the Masters.

 

Starting on the tenth, McIlroy came back from an early bogey to make five birdies and an eagle in a round that got stronger as it went on.

"I'll just rest up, maybe go to the Magic Kingdom for the afternoon and then get ready for tomorrow," he smiled.

His dropped shot arrived at the par four 11th, his second hole of the day, after finding the pond with his approach. With the ball half out of the water, there was a potential for a risky play to try and make contact, although McIlroy made the sensible decision to take a drop and limit the damage.

While he missed a short birdie putt at the next, he kickstarted his round on the 497 yard par five 16th, a two putt birdie getting him back to level par.

A converted 10 foot birdie putt on the 18th, his ninth of the day, ensured McIlroy made the turn in red numbers and he was to more than make the most of his opportunity with a stunning back nine.

He had birdie putts on eight of his nine holes after the turn after an almost flawless performance.

A close approach on the par four first set up an easily converted three foot birdie putt.

Then came the highlight of the day, a stunning eagle three at the 587 yard par five fourth that saw McIlroy find the green from a fairway bunker 259 yards out. The converted 24 foot birdie putt was just reward for the shot of the day to take McIlroy to four under for the day.

A simple up and down from off the front edge of the par five sixth completed a run of four under for three par fives before he added a clinical birdie at the eighth.

When he finally failed to set up a birdie attempt at the last, McIlroy got up and down to round off another impressive day.

"I think one of the biggest shots of the day was the bogey putt. It gave me some momentum," he said.

"The birdie on 16 and 18 to turn one under and then I got going. I hit some good shots, took advantage of the par fives and did everything well for the last 12 or 13 holes.

"When I was one over par, I looked at the board and somebody was six under so I knew I needed to get going. This course is all about staying patient though. When you make the most of the par fives, you should be there or thereabouts at the end of the week."

Graeme McDowell begins his round at 5.33pm GMT.

Belfast Telegraph