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It was a solid if not spectacular start for McIlroy, who fired a one-under par round of 70 and trails leader Ik-Jae Jang by three strokes.
The Northern Irishman is in a tie for 12th but well within striking distance. Jang's round was bolstered by an eagle at the par-four 10th—something that can't be counted on in a consistent manner.
McIlroy could have easily been further up the leaderboard and had it to level par after a bogey at the third and a birdie at the fifth in Round 1. However, a double bogey—yet another instance of where he's made an uncharacteristic big number—put him back to plus-two at the par-three 13th.
As he's been known to do at times in his young career, the 24-year-old responded with a birdie at the very next hole, and closed out the day with two consecutive birdies to get back into red figures.
Save for American Eric Mina, Canada's Ryan Yip and Scotsman Simon Yates, 13 other players either tied or ahead of McIlroy are native players.
Yip and Yates got off to hot starts—the former birdied four of the first five holes, but did make bogeys at No. 2, No. 7 and No. 9 to offset those and wound up with a two-under 69.
Two birdies to start the round for Yates were backed up by another at the par-three seventh, but he stumbled with dropped shots at No. 9, No. 10 and No. 16.
Thankfully, he closed with a birdie at the par-five last and a round of 70.
Mina made the turn in two over par but fired a 30 on the back nine to finish with a 67—just one shot off Jang's leading pace.