Published Thursday, 30 January 2014
McIlroy plays his second shot at the par 5, 18th hole. (© Getty)
The 24-year-old lived up to his billing as pre-tournament favourite as he carded seven birdies and an eagle to complete a -9 round of 63 on Thursday.
McIlroy started his round with two pars at the 10th and 11th before landing a hat-trick of birdies from the 12th and picking up further shots at the 16th and 18th.
The world number six then holed from 10ft for an eagle on the par-five third to take the lead.
He is two shots ahead of Italy's Edoardo Molinari, with defending champion Stephen Gallacher among a five-strong group on six under.
Woods, meanwhile, said his game was "just a fraction off" as he made a number of wayward drives but recovered with four birdies on the back nine for a -4 finish of 68.
It appeared unlikely that anyone would catch McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard, although Co Meath's Damien McGrane was making a good attempt nonetheless.
McGrane carded four birdies and one bogey on the front nine and then eagled the par-five 10th to move to five under par, four behind McIlroy.
European number one Henrik Stenson was also battling back after a terrible start, the Swede dropping three shots in his first five holes before making birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth to reach the turn in level par.
"It was good," McIlroy said of his performance. "It was really nice. I played really well from tee to green, drove the ball great again; I think I only missed a couple of fairways and only missed one green where I had to really get it up and down.
"I took advantage of how I am driving the ball and just need to do more of the same the next three days."
Asked how close he was to his best, the two-time major winner told Sky Sports: "It's close, obviously. This year I've shot a couple of good rounds. This is a little lower than I went in Abu Dhabi [where he finished second] and I feel very comfortable with my game."
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