• WGC-Cadillac Championship, Round One

Tiger hits front as Rory strives for respectability

ESPN staff
March 7, 2013
Rory McIlroy's troubles continued at Doral © Getty Images

WGC-Cadillac Championship leaderboard

Rory McIlroy's return to competitive golf did not see a great improvement in his play at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, as Tiger Woods demonstrated it is possible to score well using Nike equipment.

McIlroy, teeing it up at Doral less than a week after frustration with his swing led him to withdraw from the Honda Classic, struggled once again on Thursday - recording six bogeys on his round as he slumped to a one-over par round of 73.

The one bright spot of the day for the Irishman was his eagle at the first (his tenth), with additional birdies at the seventh and eighth ultimately helping him to avoid sitting at the very foot of the 65-man field.

"It was nice to sneak a few birdies in at the end and make it somewhat respectable," McIlroy told Sky Sports afterwards. "Even if everyone seemed to be going low today.

"It was a bit of a struggle. I hit some good shots, hit some not-so-good shots. This is a work in progress. I'm staying patient. I've got another three rounds to work on it more and shoot a few good scores."

Playing partner Tiger Woods, by contrast, seemed nicely in control of his game throughout his round at the Blue Monster - making nine birdies as he ultimately carded a 66.

That was enough to leave him tied for the clubhouse lead at six-under alongside Fredrik Jacobson, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson, as the majority of the field found scoring well eminently possible in benign conditions in Miami.

"The wind was up but not like it normally is here," Woods noted. "It's probably the easier wind. We played some of the par-fives downwind so that makes a big difference. I don't think we are going to get all four days like this. Today was as easy as it gets around this place."

He credited a putting lesson on Wednesday with Steve Stricker for some improved form on the greens, noting: "Whatever Stricks says I'm going to do! That dude is one of the best putters that ever lived."

The third member of the tournament's marquee three-ball, Luke Donald, effectively split the difference between the pair as he finished two-under, with a run of birdies on his back nine helping him to recover after a double-bogey six at the 18th.

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter is alongside Keegan Bradley at four-under after the opening round.

"I managed to hit driver in the water with my first shot of the day, so that didn't go to plan," Poulter noted. "But I played very solid. I like [the course], it's got some tricky holes but there are others you can take advantage of."

Poulter's compatriot Lee Westwood did not fare as well, however, with some poor putting eventually seeing him finish at one-over.

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