Masters champion Danny Willett leads Rory McIlroy by two shots after the first round of the Irish Open.Willett carded eight birdies and recorded just one bogey in a seven-par-under 65 at the K Club.
McIlroy posted a 67 as he bids to improve his recent poor form at his home tournament, which has seen him miss three straight cuts at the event.
Englishmen Callum Shinkwin and Jaco Van Zyl lie a shot behind McIlroy, with Soren Kjeldsen, Ross Fisher, Martin Kaymer and Brett Rumford three under.
World number three McIlroy, whose Rory Foundation is hosting the tournament, is seeking a first win of the season after six top-10 finishes.The Northern Irishman recorded three birdies on his front nine, and picked up a further three shots on his back nine, including a birdie on the 18th.
Willett showed much improved form after missing the cut at last week’s Players Championship at Sawgrass, his first appearance since winning the first major of the season at Augusta.The 28-year-old’s round of 65 was only one shot off the course record set by South African Charl Schwartzel in 2003.
Shane Lowry, who won the title as an amateur in 2009, ended one over, with 2007 champion Padraig Harrington five shots worse off after carding two double-bogeys on his front nine.
Graeme McDowell joined Lowry on one under, with Lee Westwood level par and this year’s European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke one over.