Golf: Rory McIlroy struggles in tough conditions in first USPGA start of season

PALM BEACH GARDENS (AFP) - Golf world No. 1 Rory McIlroy battled to a three-over-par 73 at a windswept Honda Classic on Thursday in his first US PGA Tour start of 2015.

Given the daunting conditions, which saw only 19 players break par, the Northern Irishman was not too disappointed with an effort that left him eight shots off the pace set by Jim Herman.

"I'm coming off a three-week break, tough conditions to come back in," he said. "Today wasn't what I wanted to start with, but if I can get it into red numbers tomorrow, I'm right back in the tournament."

McIlroy opened with a double-bogey at the first hole of the par-70 PGA National layout, unable to find his tee shot that landed in the brush. He had another double-bogey from the water at the par-three fifth, and was five-over before salvaging his round with a birdie-birdie finish.

Coming off a victory in the Dubai Desert Classic and a runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi in his first two European starts of the season, McIlroy managed to finish on a better note and was optimistic of more improvement on Friday.

Herman had a one-shot lead over fellow American Brendan Steele. Ireland's Padraig Harrington shared third place on three-under 67 with Americans Martin Flores and Patrick Reed.

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