Rory McIlroy in contention after opening first FedEx Cup play-off event with a 65 to lie three off lead
Rory McIlroy carded a six-under-par 65 in the opening round of The Northern Trust as Tiger Woods struggled to a 75 in the first FedEx Cup play-off event.
McIlroy recovered from a bogey on the 10th, his first hole of the day, to record an eagle and five birdies at Liberty National and lie three shots off the clubhouse lead held by American Troy Merritt.
Merritt's flawless 62 gave him a one-shot lead over former world number one Dustin Johnson, who also kept a bogey off his card in his 63, with Kevin Kisner and Spain's Jon Rahm a stroke further back on seven under.
"I played well," McIlroy told PGA Tour Live. "It was a little bit of a scrappy finish, I had to get up and down twice (for par on the eighth and ninth), but I played better.
"I hit some better iron shots today than I saw all week in Memphis, hit some nice little left-to-right shots that I didn't have a couple of weeks ago and I drove it well, so if I continue to drive it well around here hopefully I'll give myself plenty of chances to make birdies."
McIlroy began the week second in the FedEx Cup standings and played the opening round alongside leader Brooks Koepka and third-placed Matt Kuchar.
The 30-year-old won the overall FedEx Cup title and USD 10million bonus in 2016 and would love to repeat the feat this season, especially with the first prize increased to a staggering USD 15million.
"I really like the play-offs," McIlroy added. "Brooks and Kuch and I were playing together today and that could be the same thing next week depending where we end up in the standings after this week.
"I like that you have that intensity from the start. It was cool to play with those guys and I have another day with them tomorrow, sort of keep an eye on what they're doing and try to play another good round of golf."
The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the BMW Championship and the top 30 after Medinah qualify for the Tour Championship, but Woods is projected to fall from 28th to 35th in the standings after his error-strewn 75.
The Masters champion carded three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey, but at least did not look to be struggling with the stiff back which forced him to play a limited role in Wednesday's pre-tournament pro-am.