• McIlroy grabs PGA clubhouse lead with sizzling 63

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    Rory McIlroy  AFP photo

    Rory McIlroy
    AFP photo

    PALM BEACH GARDENS: World number eight Rory McIlroy closed with back-to-back birdies to seize the clubhouse lead in Thursday’s opening round of the $6 million US PGA Honda Classic with a bogey-free seven-under par 63.

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    The two-time major champion from Northern Ireland sank a 27-foot birdie putt at the second and had a tap-in birdie at the par-5 third for a solid early start at PGA National.

    McIlroy then opened the back nine with three birdies in a row and added another with a 12-foot putt at the par-3 17th.

    At the 18th, McIlroy found a bunker with his approach but blasted out to 4.5 feet and sank the birdie putt.

    McIlroy’s longest birdie putt was a 45-foot effort at the 11th sandwiched between an eight-foot birdie putt at the 10th and a six-footer at the 12th.

    American Russell Henley was still on the course at six-under with two holes to finish while South African Rory Sabbatini, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and American William McGirt were next nearest to McIlroy in the clubhouse on five-under 65.

    McIlroy, 24, won the Honda Classic in 2012 to capture the world number one ranking for the first time in his career.

    But last year, McIlroy made a humbling withdrawal during his second round at the event, complaining of mental fatigue and a toothache. He later apologized and says he has learned from his actions that he must play through tough times.

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