Host McIlroy toils at Irish Open as Hebert, Im lead

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Rory McIlroy struggled to find rhythm as Benjamin Hebert and Daniel Im each posted 64 to share the lead at the Irish Open on Thursday.

As host and reigning champion, expectations were high for four-time major winner McIlroy, but he ended the opening day eight shots back after a level-par round on home soil.

Frenchman Hebert and American rival Im's scorecard were both blemish-free as the duo set their sights on one of the four Open Championship qualifying spots up for grabs.

That will also be a target for Ross Fisher, who is one of three players a stroke back, joining English compatriot Matthew Southgate and Jon Rahm.

Other headline names to shoot low on include world number two Hideki Matsuyama and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, who both signed for 67s.

Im needed a couple of decent par saves at the final two holes, including an 18-foot putt at the last, and he reflected on his good fortune.

"I think it was a bit of luck," he said. "I think the big man was definitely watching out for me today.

"And then I striped the ball quite well at the end. I putted really well through the round. I made some good par saves and I made some good birdie putts to keep it going."

Reflecting on his round, Herbert added: "I played very good, only missed one green, no bogeys, it's still good. We've been a bit lucky I think also with the conditions, the wind at the end. So it was just perfect today. We'll see tomorrow."