McIlroy bags Mini Driver as grandstand finish muscles him into the mix

Ronan MacNamara

Harry Diamond (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy latest attempt to arrest a slump in form was to follow Tommy Fleetwood’s mantra and put the Taylormade mini driver in the bag for the first round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town.

McIlroy admitted he only used the mini driver three times on Thursday but likes how versatile the club is and feels it will help him over the next three days.

“I hit it a little bit. I actually think I only hit it three times. The way the wind was today out of the south means I didn’t hit it — some of the holes I hit it in practice, I was hitting 5-wood off the tee and then there was a couple of holes where I hit mini in the practice round, then hit driver because the wind was into.

“But it’s a great club. It’s versatile. I’m sure I’ll use it quite a bit over these next few days.”

For all the attention on his long game in recent weeks, it was the short game that bailed McIlroy out of some tricky situations and helped him to card an opening 67 to lie just four shots off the pace set by JT Poston.

The four-time major winner rolled in a birdie from 9 feet on the first hole before he held out from the green side bunker for an eagle on the par-5 5th.

He bogeyed the 12th but finished with a flourish, birdieing his last two holes and he admitted that papered over some cracks.

“Yeah, the last two holes definitely help. I’m going to go to the range here and hit a few balls, but yeah, the last two holes gloss over maybe a little bit of scrappiness there in the middle round.

“I feel like I started pretty well. But it is, it’s one of these golf courses you just have to manage your game, put it in the right spots, and it didn’t feel amazing for most of the round, but I was able to manage my game well and put together a solid round of golf.”

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry is seven shots off the pace on one-under after an opening round of 70.

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