PALM BEACH GARDENS - World number eight Rory McIlroy closed with back-to-back birdies to seize the lead after opening round of the $6 million US PGA Honda Classic with a bogey-free seven-under par 63. The two-time major champion from Northern Ireland owned a one-stroke lead over American Russell Henley and a two-shot edge over South African Rory Sabbatini, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and American William McGirt after 18 holes. "I played really solid," McIlroy said. "It's a good ball-strikers' golf course. If you can really keep your ball in play and give yourself many birdie chances, that's the name of the game here." Difficult patches, meanwhile, continued to nag Woods, the 14-time major champion chasing the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus but winless in majors since the 2008. –AFP