Rory McIlroy in contention after bogey-free 65 at WGC-Bridgestone

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Rory McIlroy enjoys a strong start to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and opens with a bogey-free 65 to lie just two shots off the lead.

Rory McIlroy was delighted to take advantage of the friendly scoring conditions at Firestone Country Club as he cruised to an opening 65 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

McIlroy carded five birdies and kept a bogey off his card to lie just two shots behind early clubhouse leader Kyle Stanley, and he admitted he had rarely seen the Akron course playing as easily.

The 2014 champion covered the back-nine in 33 before vaulting up the leaderboard with three birdies in five holes from the second, and he did well to avoid dropped shots on the sixth and nine holes after wayward drives.

But McIlroy felt the Firestone rough was not as punishing as in previous years, and he was happy with his day’s work as he looks for his first win since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.

“I don’t think you could find this golf course any easier than we had it today,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s probably the softest I’ve ever seen it. Usually you have to hit your ball in the fairway here, but even when I missed a few shots in the rough it seemed like you could even get your ball to stop on the greens, even if they’re tucked behind bunkers.

“The ninth hole was a prime example, I missed it in the right rough and the pin’s tucked over that bunker front-right, and I still felt I could go straight at it and not worry about it going through the green.

“So you needed to take advantage of the conditions today. It looked like most of the guys have done that, which is good.”

McIlroy also admitted he was not as consistent as he would have like with the driver, but he was satisfied with his long game and is aware of the fine margin of error with the incredible swing speed he produces.

“I’m just working through a couple of things, but I got it going towards the end of the round, which was good to see,” he added. “The ones that I missed in practice, I was missing them right, and then the first couple tee shots today I missed left.

“So it’s fine, and I think it’s minuscule things. Whenever you’re swinging it that hard and at that speed, it just has to be a little off and it sort of is magnified. But I got it going later in the round, which is good.”

McIlroy played in the group ahead of Tiger Woods and finished one stroke ahead of the eight-time champion, and he insisted that the 42-year-old still has the ability to “energise” a golf tournament when he is challenging for the lead.

Asked about the Woods impact, McIlroy said: “I was on the eighth green and he must have holed a birdie putt on seven because we could hear it. It’s still the same.

“But I think just because I’ve competed with him for a while now that maybe I’ve sort of been desensitised to it a little bit, but it’s still great to see. It energizes the entire game and tournaments that he plays at. It’s good to see.”

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