Published Thursday, 16 January 2014
Rory McIlroy receives a traditional Emirate 'Bisht' to mark his engagement. (© Getty)
The world number seven made a strong start with birdies on the fifth hole and 18 hole to leave him just three shots off the pace going into round two.
McIlroy was also presented with a traditional Emirate 'Bisht', which is a gown given as a gift to men who have recently become engaged, after announcing on New Year's Eve that he had proposed to his long-term girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
Speaking after his round, the 24-year-old said: "I feel the benefit of ending last year well and starting of this year with a lot of hard work and stuff.
"That was my first competitive round since the start of December and I drove the balls as well as I have done in a long time, so that was very pleasing."
Belfast man Michael Hoey also started well with a three under par round of 69 on Thursday.
Meanwhile Darren Clarke ended the day two over after six bogies and five birdies, and Gareth Maybin battled his way to a 73.
Sharing the lead are Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Romain Wattel of France and Englishman Matthew Baldwin on five under.
© UTV News