Rory McIlroy predicts he will win "at least one" Major in 2020 and he made that look a conservative target as he blasted a six-under 66 to claim the early lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The world No 1 was one-over-par through six holes before he spectacularly came to life at Bay Hill and rattled in five birdies and an eagle three in a blistering, 11-hole stretch.
In times past, the Holywood star might have become frustrated by his failure to take advantage of windless, early morning conditions. But buoyed by a seven-foot bogey save at his second hole, he put on a ball-striking exhibition to lead by a shot from Talor Gooch as Pádraig Harrington made just one putt outside 10 feet in his two-over 74.
He's gone five-and-a-half years without winning a Major, but he was bullish about ending that streak when he spoke on the eve of the tournament. "I remember when we had that chat at the end of 2013, I predicted I would win two and I went on to do that," McIlroy said. "So I am predicting I will win at least one."
It was a disappointing day for the Irish in the Qatar Masters where Danish teenager Nicolai Højgaard (18) made six birdies in eight holes in a seven-under 64.
He leads by a shot from the Netherlands' Joost Luiten with Cormac Sharvin the best of the Irish, tied for 64th after a level-par 71. Jonathan Caldwell shot 74, and Paris-based Kerry amateur Michael Young signed for a seven-over 78.