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WGC-HSBC: Rory McIlroy pleased with recovery after slow start

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Rory McIlroy reflects on making a late move up the leaderboard with an opening-round 67 at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Rory McIlroy was delighted to not be playing catch up to the rest of the field after making a strong finish to his opening round at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

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The world No 2 has struggled in recent events to make a fast start to a tournament and posted an opening-round 72 on his way to a tied-third finish at the Zozo Championship last week.

McIlroy three off Li in Shanghai
McIlroy three off Li in Shanghai

Report and highlights from the opening round of the WGC-HSBC Champions.

McIlroy looked in danger of experiencing a similar result after bogeying the opening hole and finding water on two others on his way to reaching the turn in level-par, only to post five birdies in a six-hole stretch on his way to a five-under 67.

Image: McIlroy has 17 worldwide top-10s in 23 start in 2019

"I think it's momentum," McIlroy said. "Sometimes you feel it a little more than other times and definitely got to momentum on that back nine today and tried to sort of ride that momentum to the very end.

"It would have been nice to pick up one more, had a good chance for birdie, but after the start today, to shoot five under, I'm not complaining. Looking at the leaderboard and looking at the scores that have been shot, it definitely was scorable.

Live WGC HSBC Champions

"There was no wind, so it was a day to take advantage of the conditions. The last few tournaments I've played, I've had a bad opening round and then been trying to play catch up. At least now, I'm right in the thick of things from the start, which is a better place to be."

McIlroy sits in the group tied-seventh and three strokes off the pace, with home favourite Haotong LI holding a one-shot lead after posting a eight-under 64 at Sheshan International Golf Club.

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Image: Haotong Li is chasing a first victory of 2019

"Today is a pretty good start and good beginning," Li said. "Obviously it would be a great joy for Chinese golfers and Chinese golf fans to have a Chinese player winning a WGC-HSBC Champions here in China but for the next three days, anything could happen.

"So I don't want to think too much about it. I just want to focus and concentrate on the upcoming three days because anything can happen. I just wanted to do a good job to keep this momentum going for the next three days.

Live WGC HSBC Champions

"I don't feel quite well with my status and my momentum because in the previous tournament, I wasn't really playing that well. But I never expected today, that I had such a great round today in day one."

Watch the WGC-HSBC Champions throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues on Friday from 2am on Sky Sports Golf.

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