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Golf: Rory McIlroy holds lead after first round at Arnold Palmer Invitational

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Rory McIlroy drives off of the sixth tee Thursday at the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational held at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b2f0a760fa1a5786e03f85c6171e9934/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Rory McIlroy drives off of the sixth tee Thursday at the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational held at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

March 3 (UPI) -- Rory McIlroy opened with a 7-under 65 to grab a two-shot lead after Thursday's first round of the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

The Irishman had six birdies to just one bogey over his first 18 holes. He also sank a 40-foot eagle on the par-5 16th to set the target score for Jon Rahm and the others playing in the afternoon.

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McIlroy had a three-shot advantage among early starters over Adam Scott, Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris and Graeme McDowell. McIlroy's lead shrank to two strokes after late starters Beau Hossler, J.J. Spaun and Billy Horschel each ended the day at 5-under 67.

"I think you turn up at any golf course where you've had success, and automatically you're going to have some confidence coming in," said McIlroy, who won at Bay Hill in 2018 and hasn't finished outside of the top 10 at the event over the past five years.

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Charles Howell III and Ian Poulter joined Scott, Im, Zalatoris and McDowell at 4-under par and tied for fifth.

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Rickie Fowler and Scottie Scheffler both opened with 2-under 70s, while Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson and Rahm -- the top-ranked golfer in the world -- were even further back of the lead at even-par 72.

Before the Arnold Palmer Invitational kicked off Thursday morning, former world No. 1 Jason Day was a late withdrawal from the field.

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Day withdrew from the event Wednesday, but tour officials did not provide a reason. He withdrew from the same tournament during the past two years with a back injury.

The four-round tournament runs Thursday through Sunday at Bay Hill in Orlando. No. 200 David Lipsky replaced Day in the field and opened with a 1-under 71.

No. 12 Bryson DeChambeau also withdrew from the tournament earlier this week with a lingering hand injury.

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More than 100 golfers are in the field for the tournament. The first-place finisher will receive a $2.16 million prize.

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