Gary Woodland stays three shots ahead in Sentry Tournament of Champions

Gary Woodland stays three shots ahead in Sentry Tournament of Champions

"He just watched me play the course".

Rory McIlroy is three off the pace on his Hawaii debut after an opening-round 69, with Bryson DeChambeau and Patton Kizzire - who fired a hole-in-one at the par-three eighth - also among the group of players on four under.

The three-time PGA TOUR victor has spent his holiday season practicing - even taking his clubs on a Dominican Republic getaway with his wife - to ensure this time around he was ready to contend. "I hit the ball well, kept the ball in play, made a few putts and controlled my ball in the wind".

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland were tied for second place after rounds of 67 on a sunny and windy day at the scenic island course in Hawaii.

Thomas, however, said he would not be putting with the flag stick in.

In recent seasons, McIlroy has begun his playing year during the European Tour's series of tournaments in the Middle East but announced in November that he would be focusing on the PGA Tour until the end of August.

"I was just trying to hit it on the green", said Kizzire during the first on-course interview of the year. In 2018, Johnson powered his way to an eight-shot win. "So that's definitely a lot easier than dwelling on good shots and bad shots the whole time". "So to get myself right back in contention and see if I've learned anything from previous year and try to put that into practice is great".

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"The thing is if I can get through that front nine in under par there is good chances on the back nine and that is what I did out there today", McIlroy added.

"If you get the wrong gust of wind, you can make a fool of yourself so to be able to get in at four under is a nice start to the tournament".

"I just saw somebody's face in the background".

The 34-year-old got hot on the back nine, reeling off four successive birdies from the 11th to the 15th hole before gaining another stroke at the last.

Koepka did just that while calmly plodding along for a par-par finish, carding a 3-under 70 in his first under-par round in five tries at the Tournament of Champions. "I've obviously been in the position multiple times". And while it's not like a lot of other players are going out getting hammered every night, golf has a more social reputation than most sports.

Marc Leishman chips to the 14th green.

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