Golf

Rory McIlroy believes watching Conor McGregor's fight was perfect preparation as he makes flying start at Torrey Pines

Rory McIlroy suggested his decision to watch Conor McGregor’s comeback UFC win in Las Vegas last weekend was the perfect preparation for his return to the PGA Tour, as he fired a sparkling opening round of 67 in the Farmers Insurance Open.

The world No 2 cards seven birdies in first start since November to sit just one off the lead after day one and he looked in good touch despite his time away from the tour.

Playing his first event of 2020, the Irishman looked in great touch as he fired a five-under-par round to put himself in a challenging position and he told Sky Sports that he was content with his form.

“A 67 is a nice start. I drove the ball really well, and if I can drive it like that for the rest of this week, and the rest of this year, then I’ll be pretty happy,” said McIlroy.

“My iron play was okay, I hit a couple of loose ones, but my wedge play was nice although I hit a couple of clunky chip shots, one on each nine. But apart from that it was good. I putted okay and I holed out well, maybe my speed on the greens was not quite what I wanted it to be.

“But overall, for my first round back this year, it was pretty good. I’ve had a couple of good weeks in Florida to practice and prepare, and I made a little pit stop in Vegas on my way here to watch the Conor McGregor fight at the weekend.”

“I had some time on Sunday to try to dial in with the new equipment, which has been good, and the weather has been perfect here and great for getting some practice in.

“I don’t want to call this a practice week, but I’m having four competitive rounds to see where my game is on a couple of very good golf courses.”

McIlroy went on to suggest he was keen to build his mental strength this season, as he looks to win his first major title since 2014.

“It’s not as if I wasn’t able to get myself in those places mentally previously, I just didn’t know how I was doing it,” he added. “Now I feel like I’ve put a structure in place and I have a routine with certain mental exercises.

“That’s all helped to get me in the right place before I got out and play, which is huge for me. It’s not like I didn’t have the ability before, but I just feel like I can replicate it a bit more nowadays.”

Woods was satisfied with his comeback, as he finished in a strong position and admitted he was enjoying competing in his first PGA Tour event since last October.

“I definitely was feeling the adrenaline of competing again,” Woods said to the Golf Channel. “I missed the competition and the competing, and I was trying to keep everything as calm as I possibly could. I didn’t do a very good job of that starting out. I felt like I fought back, and a lot of positives heading into the South course.”

Denmark’s Sebastian Cappelen and America’s Keegan Bradley lead the event by one shot, with McIlroy firmly in contention heading into day two.

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