Rory McIlroy shines as Masters rivals stumble
It was a day to remember for Rory McIlroy in The Masters - and one to forget for Padraig Harrington and world number one Martin Kaymer.
While they shot 77 and 78 respectively - Harrington nearly pulled out with neck trouble - McIlroy charged into an early three-stroke clubhouse lead with a dazzling seven-under-par 65.
It brought back memories of the 21-year-old's major record-equalling first-round 63 in The Open at St Andrews last July, but that is where he hopes the comparisons end as McIlroy followed it with an 80.
America's leading money-winner last year, Matt Kuchar, and South African Charl Schwartzel stood four under, but then Korean YE Yang - Asia's only winner of a major so far - eagled the 510-yard 13th to go to five under and so cut McIlroy's advantage to two in mid-afternoon.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, started with a three-birdie, two-bogey 71, while defending champion and favourite Phil Mickelson, in the second-last group of the day, kicked off with seven straight pars before making his first birdie at the long eighth.
McIlroy said: "It was not as explosive or as spectacular as St Andrews, but it was very solid and it's a great start."
The best at The Masters, in fact, since Greg Norman's 63 in 1996.
"I felt as if my game's been really good all season and after working on my game in Florida for 10 days with my coach Michael Bannon I feel very comfortable.
"I'm still relatively inexperienced, but I feel I am pretty quick learner. There's no substitute for experience and I've still got a lot of learning to do, but I am getting there.
"It was nice to see a few putts drop in as well and hopefully I can build on it."