Rory McIlroy produces excellent opening round to stay within two of Danny Willett

The Masters champion was in fine form carding eight birdies and just a solitary bogey for his opening round

Rory McIlroy said this week that he was looking to end the hoodoo surrounding his performances at the Irish Open and with today's opening round 67 he's beginning to do just that.

The Holywood golfer will feel he left a number of shots out there this afternoon, but six birdies and a bogey in his opening round has left him in good stead going into tomorrow's second round, just two adrift of leader Danny Willett.

McIlroy got off to a steady start, four pars in the first five holes including a birdie on the fourth meant he could attack the greens on the front nine.

Birdies on seven and nine in relatively clear conditions, especially in comparison to this morning's wind and rain, left him on -3 going into the turn, before birdies on 10 and 13 pushed him to the forefront of the pack. 

A bogey on 14 was the only blemish on an otherwise promising start for the 27-year-old and a birdie on the last atoned for this to leave him with little ground to make up on the Masters champion.

Willett appeared fully rested after his break from the European tour and picked up seven birdies in his opening 14 holes at the K Club.

The Sheffield native stumbled on the 17 to card a bogey, but an birdie on the last put the gloss on an excellent opening round 65.

Elsewhere today, Paul Dunne remains in contention after his opening round 70. The Greystones golfer shot five birdies and three bogeys in a mixed opening round in Kildare.

Earlier, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington all endured inconsistent opening rounds to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.