McIlroy relieved to limit damage of poor outward nine

Defending champion Rory McIlroy made a poor start at the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday, but was pleased with his recovery on the back nine.

A disappointing outward nine set McIlroy back and he had to put on a solid back-nine showing just to card a one-over 73.

McIlroy, who turned 27 on Wednesday, opened the round with pars on 10 and 11, but back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13 and a double bogey at the 18th left him four over at the turn.

The Northern Irishman improved thereafter with four birdies, including three in a row on holes five, six and seven.

"I was sort of still in range mode on the front nine there. I didn't really have my scoring head on," he said.

"I was thinking about my golf swing and just trying to make good swings at it and I sort of got caught up in that a little bit.

"I definitely would have taken a 73 standing on the first tee over there. It's just a matter of doing some work and coming out tomorrow and hopefully being a little more ready to score."

The oddest moment of the round came on the sixth tee when a member of the gallery, easily the largest of the day, tossed a golf ball towards McIlroy with an earplug stuck to it, claiming it was birthday gift. The eager fan was taken off the property.

"Yes, it was sort of weird," McIlroy said. "That's never really happened to me before."

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