The Honda Classic. McIlroy Makes His Mark. February 27 2014

dragon logo darkThe Honda Classic LogoRory McIlroy makes his mark at the Honda Classic on the PGA National course at Palm Beach Gardens, taking a first round lead.

The Upshot: Rory roars

Rory McIlroy / Getty Images

 Rory carded a -7 under par 63 opening round, taking just 25 putts after hitting 14 greens in regulation in the opening round. Scoring birdies on the last two holes at PGA National giving him a one-shot lead, after the first round of The Honda Classic. By contrast,  he was +7 over par through eight holes last year when he became so frustrated with mounting expectations and a slumping game that he walked off the course in the middle of the second round. He said it was a mistake he would never repeat;

" It's not something I really thought about out there. Coming in this week, I knew that I was playing well and I just wanted to try and get off to a good start. Regardless of what happened last year or where it is, it's always nice to shoot a round like this and get yourself in the mix early."

"You can't fake it around here, you have to play well to shoot good scores, and I was able to do that today. I've reached a point now where I'm very comfortable with everything in my game and my swing. I'm seeing shots the way I want to see them. When I do that, I feel like the scores are just a byproduct of all the hard work and making good swings. I'm in a great place I couldn't be happier.”

Russell Henley is in second place at -6 under par with a round of 64. He  opened with five birdies in six holes before cooling off. He put his good start  down to his career at the University of Georgia, which prepared him to face some of the more difficult venues on the PGA Tour;

“I think college golf may have something to do with that. Most courses you play are pretty difficult, at least the ones where you play the best teams and all of the highest-ranked tournaments. They’re pretty tough courses. Getting off to a good start here is pretty important, every hole is challenging, and you have to decide what to do with the wind and where it’s coming from.”

Rory Sabbatini, William McGirt and Jamie Donaldson are all tied in third place at -5 under par after their opening rounds of 65.

Phil Mickelson is not too familiar with this course, and it showed with his first round of even par 72;

“I’m a little uncertain at times where I want to go because I’m not as familiar with the course, but you should be able to pick that up quickly with the yardage books and I’ve got a great caddie. So those things are not as important as the execution, hitting the right shot and pulling it off. I really like this golf course, I think it’s a wonderful test of golf. I think it’s a very difficult, hard golf course but when you hit good shots, you get rewarded with birdies opportunities.”

Tiger Woods was one shot worse than Phil, carding a +1 over par round of 71; Tiger said he did not make too much;

"Well, I didn't make much, it certainly wasn't together today. I had four good looks early and didn't make any of them. Then I made three good saves in a row at 16, 17, 18, which was nice, and then didn't really hit the ball that well on the back nine. Then I started putting better. Figures."

"We were talking about it out there today in our group, how different this golf course played this year compared to last year. They were as slippery as can be last year where now they are sticky and slower."