PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — On the course where Rory McIlroy first rose to No. 1, he looked as if he might be headed in that direction again.
McIlroy shot a 7-under 63 on Thursday, with birdies on the last two holes at PGA National giving him a one-shot lead over Russell Henley after the first round of the Honda Classic.
If nothing else, it was big improvement from the last official round he played on PGA National.
McIlroy was 7 over through eight holes last year when he became so frustrated with mounting expectations and a slumping game that he walked off the course in the middle of the second round. He said it was a mistake that he would never repeat.
Tiger Woods, in his first tournament in a month, couldn’t make a birdie putt early and had to scramble for pars late in his round. A birdie on the last hole gave him a 71, leaving him eight shots behind.
Henley opened with five birdies and six holes before he cooled off for a 64. Past champion Rory Sabbatini, William McGirt and Jamie Donaldson were at 65.
Zach Johnson was four shots behind.