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August 1 2013

6:50 PM

McIlroy battles back for a 70

McIlroy is six shots off the lead after the opening round at Firestone. (Shamus/Getty Images)

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AKRON, Ohio -- All in all, Rory McIlroy couldn't be too disappointed with that round of 70 he shot during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday.

Particularly not after the way the young Northern Irishman fought back from that double bogey at the 10th hole at Firestone Country Club.

McIlroy was 2 over for the day when he stepped to the 11th tee but three birdies on his next five holes got things headed in the right direction. He wasn't happy with that bogey at the 18th hole, of course, but he did manage to steady the ship.

"Some good, some bad," McIlroy said as he assessed his round. "I felt like I hit a lot of good shots out there, drove the ball well for the most part, gave myself a lot of chances for birdies, and I just threw a few shots away around the greens. ...  You know, you start to save shots there, and all of a sudden you're 3 , 4 under par, 5 under par.
   
"No, I played well, hit a lot of good shots and felt more comfortable with my putting, which was a good sign."

McIroy's troubles at the 10th hole began when he hit his drive well left on the other side of the cart path. He chipped back into the fairway, but his third shot from 112 yards stopped short of the green and McIlroy took three to get down from 24 feet, missing from 5 for bogey.

At that point, the frustrated McIlroy set himself a goal -- "I just wanted to get back to even par," he said. The 24-year-old proceeded to make a 10-footer for birdie at No. 12, a 21-footer at the 13th and 6-footer at No. 15. McIlroy also had a 5-footer at the 14th hole that would have made it four straight birdies stubbornly refuse to fall.

"Just trying to stay patient," McIlroy said. "I mean, we've got four days here, so no point in trying to be aggressive."

Another lapse at the 18th hole, though, ended his round at even par as McIlroy just missed the 18th green, chipped to 12 feet and couldn't convert the saving putt. Even so, McIlroy opened with a 70 last year and managed to finish in a tie for fifth -- then win three of his next five starts, including the PGA.

"I feel very comfortable on this golf course," he said. "I see my shots off the tee. I feel comfortable. I like the greens. ... I've played well here, and I come in with obviously some good positive thoughts."

All of which made it easier to relax on a day when he hit eight fairways, 10 greens and used just 28 putts.

"I'm just trying to enjoy myself this week, enjoy my golf, play with a bit more of a smile on my face, and I sort of did that," McIlroy said.

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