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

Rory McIlroy doesn’t have to bring his “A game” even with low scores, especially at courses closer to home.

That was the case Thursday when McIlroy closed with a 4-under 67. In the opening round at the Cognizant Classic, he had five birdies and one bogey on the par-4 17th hole.

Still, the Northern Irishman admitted after his round that the irons were “a little loose”.

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

“When you see a pin on the left side of the green, it makes you a little nervous about what shot to take, how you’re going to swing, etc.”

His only bogey of the day came on a hole where the pin was on the left side of the putting surface. McIlroy airmailed the eighth green from 161 yards to go, but couldn’t get it up or down.

Photo by Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images

A similar example occurred on the par-4 first, where McIlroy hit his second shot from 141 yards into a greenside bunker. He then went up and down from the trap to save par.

The struggles in McIlroy’s approach are reflected statistically. Through 18 holes, he ranked 119th in strokes gained approaching the green.

“Today on the practice field, I’m going to look for a spot where I can imagine myself hitting to the left pin and just trying to hit the shot that I want to hit,” McIlroy added.

“Basically all you have to do is repeat.”

What McIlroy doesn’t 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 and averaged 327 yards off the tee.

This created a number of opportunities, especially for McIlroy, who birdied each of the three par 5s at PGA National.

“The tee shot was really good. It was a really good thing,” McIlroy said.

“Overall a solid start. A 67 around here is always a decent score. It was very calm today. Not that this course is that easy to get.”

Light winds Thursday resulted in many low scores for the Jack Nicklaus redesign.

However, McIlroy only had a round of 4 under, and many of the other players had less.

Still, he is three strokes behind Chad Ramey’s lead at 7 under.

But if McIlroy finds something with the irons, he’ll definitely be in the mix through the weekend.

Jack Mirko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through.Be sure to check it out @_PlayingThrough Cover more golf. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko In the same way.

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