Rory McIlroy's bid for a second Wells Fargo title got off to a good start on Thursday. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- All Rory McIlroy wanted to do was to keep making birdies.
Starting at the fifth hole on Thursday, he reeled off four in a row, then followed a bogey at No. 9 with two more. And wen he added everything up and put pencil to his scorecard, McIlroy had a 67 that left him tied for the lead -- again -- at the Wells Fargo Championship.
McIlroy was tied atop the leaderboard at the end of 72 holes at Quail Hollow last year but missed out on a second Wells Fargo Championship in three years when Rickie Fowler birdied the first playoff hole. Obviously, there's still plenty of golf to be played this week but McIlroy likes the way he's hitting the ball and the position he's in.
And why not? The talented young Northern Irishman hit 11 of 14 fairways and all but three greens in regulation to tie for third and ninth in those categories, respectively. He also used just 29 putts in making seven birdies, including a 10-footer on the 18th.
"I feel a lot more comfortable with my swing and a lot more comfortable with where my game is at, so that's always going to make it easier," McIlroy said. "But I love this golf course. I seem to play well around here, so that is also an added benefit."
McIlroy's birdie barrage began when he got up and down for birdie from the right side of the green at the par-5 fifth. He hit a 7-iron to 3 feet at the sixth hole, then two-putted No. 7 from 22 feet and tapped in from 20 inches at No. 8.
The 2010 champ at Quail Hollow missed the ninth green and couldn't make a 7-footer to save par. But he answered with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 10th and another from 9 feet at No. 11 before another pesky bogey halted that run. The 67 was McIlroy's fifth round in the 60s in 11 trips around the Tom Fazio redesign.
"I was hitting some good shots in there and leaving the ball quite close to the pins for the birdies, which is what you need to do out here," McIlroy said. " It's hard to hole on putts, but I played well. I gave myself plenty of chances and I'm really happy with the day."
McIlroy said he and his coach Michael Bannon spent last week in Florida working on a something they noticed at Augusta -- "It was only a tiny little thing but it's made a good difference," he said. McIlroy is feeling better and better about where his game is.
"I think it's big strides because my game wasn't where it should have been at all at the start of the year," he said. "Got into a couple of bad habits on my swing, and it just took me a little bit of time to get out of them. But now that I feel like I'm swinging it well, this is the sort of golf I expect to play."