Rory McIlroy shoots first-round 66, near top of leaderboard

Can Tiger get to 20 majors? (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy played well in his first round at the 2013 Players Championship. (Getty Images)

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Everyone is chasing Roberto Castro's first-round 63 and Rory McIlroy did a pretty great job of it in his first round at The Players Championship on Thursday. McIlroy shot a 6-under 66 and only trails Castro by three shots after round one.

McIlroy has never made the cut at The Players Championship in three tries but barring a disaster on Friday not only will he make the cut but he should be in contention on the weekend.

He shot a 31 on the back nine (where he started his round), which was one off the course record of 30 and included birdies at the difficult Nos. 16 and 17. He used that 31 to buoy himself as he only made one birdie on the front nine (but no bogeys) to finish with his 66.

Here's a look at his card:

McIlroy noted Wednesday that his recent streak of good play (three top-10s in his last five events) was because of improved iron play:

"I'm back to hitting 70-80 percent of my greens again."

He's fourth on the PGA Tour in greens-in-regulation and did nothing on Thursday to make anyone think he was going anywhere in that category as he hit 15 of 18 greens.

McIlroy's playing partners fared pretty well, too. Adam Scott shot a 69 and Steve Stricker shot a 67. 

Everybody's going low and the conditions at Sawgrass are perfect right now. We should be in for a good rest of the day.

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CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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