Rory McIlroy opens Cognizant Classic with solid round despite “struggling”

Rory McIlroy does not need his ‘A-game’ to score low, especially on a course close to home.

That was the case Thursday, as McIlroy signed for a 4-under 67. His opening round at The Cognizant Classic included five birdies and one bogey on his 17th hole—the par-4 8th.

And yet, the Northern Irishman admitted after his round that he was a “little loose” with his irons.

“It’s something that I’ve been struggling with for the last few weeks, and it’s hard,” McIlroy said of his iron play.

“When I see a pin on the left side of the green, I’m just a bit more uneasy about what shot to play and how I’m trying to swing it and whatever.”

His only bogey of the day came on a hole where the pin was on the left-hand side of the putting surface. McIlroy air-mailed the 8th green from 161 yards out and could not get up and down.

Rory McIlroy, Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

Photo by Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images

A similar instance happened on the par-4 1st, where, from 141 yards away, McIlroy pulled his second shot into the greenside bunker. He then got up-and-down from the trap to save par.

McIlroy’s woes with his approaches are reflected statistically. Through 18 holes, he ranks 119th in strokes gained approaching the green.

“I’ll try to find a place on the range today where I can sort of imagine that I’m hitting to left pins and just trying to hit the shots that I want to hit,” McIlroy added.

“Repetition is basically all I need to do.”

What McIlroy does not need to work on is his driver.

He ranks first in strokes gained off the tee following Thursday’s round. He found 12 of 14 fairways while averaging 327 yards off the tee.

That created plenty of opportunities, especially on PGA National’s three par-5s, where McIlroy birdied each.

“Really good off the tee. That’s been a really good thing,” McIlroy noted.

“Overall, it’s a solid start. 67 around here is always a decent score. It was so benign today. You’re not going to get this course much easier.”

The winds laid low on Thursday, creating plenty of low scores on the Jack Nicklaus re-design.

But McIlroy could only muster a 4-under round, while plenty of others went lower.

Still, he finds himself three shots off the lead, held by Chad Ramey and S.H. Kim at 7-under.

Should McIlroy find something with irons, however, he will undoubtedly be in the mix throughout the weekend.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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