Around the Nation (Feb. 27): Rory McIlroy takes first-round lead at Honda Classic

Associated Press Published:

GOLF

McIlroy takes lead at Honda Classic

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes Thursday for a 7-under 63 to take the lead after one round of the Honda Classic.

It was quite a turnaround for McIlroy, who last year was 7 over through eight holes of the second round when he walked off PGA National out of frustration. He looked more like the free-wheeling kid who won this tournament two years ago to rise to No. 1 in the world.

McIlroy buried a few long putts to help the cause, though his game was solid through a cloudy afternoon.

He was one shot ahead of Russell Henley, who birdied five of his opening six holes before cooling.

Tiger Woods, playing for the first time in a month, was eight shots behind after a 71.

Ben Curtis (Kent State) shot a 3-over 73 in the first round.

AUTO RACING

Stewart confident about leg heading into Phoenix

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tony Stewart does not consider the Daytona 500 a disaster, despite the engine problems that spoiled his return from a broken right leg.

The three-time NASCAR champion wound up 35th in the season-opening race, but logged enough laps during Speedweeks that he’s confident he’s ready for the upcoming stretch of seven consecutive races. Stewart missed the final 15 races last year after breaking his leg in two places during a sprint car crash in Iowa.

His first time back in a race car was Feb. 14, the day before he competed in the exhibition Sprint Unlimited. He also raced in the Budweiser Duel before the 500, giving him 672 miles of racing in three events.

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