Rory McIlroy leads the best out in the Hero World Challenge

There is a three way tie at the top of the leaderboard in the Bahamas, as Rory McIlroy, Daniel Berger and Abraham Ancer started the week with matching cards of 66

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Rory McIlroy - PGA TOUR - Getty Images

03 December 2021: Rory McIlroy has been an infrequent visitor to the Hero World Challenge. He has only played the event twice (2010 4th; 2013 T11) before, and never in the Bahamas. But neither the lack of familiarity or a double bogey on the par-5 ninth could come in the way of Rory, who has a share of the lead with Daniel Berger and Abraham Ancer.

All three men shot matching scores of six-under 66.

Hero MotoCorp supports Indian golf
Hero MotoCorp supports Indian golf

Justin Thomas arrived at the 18th tee with the lead entirely on his bag. But a wayward tee shot sent him into the bushes, forcing a penalty. He needed to get up and down from there to secure a share of the lead, but just could not find enough of a break, left to right and settled for a double bogey to finish on 67 with Webb Simpson and Brooks Koepka.

McIlroy rued the fact that he played the par-5 – there are five of them on the Ernie Els designed course in Albany – in even par. He made birdies on the 11th and 15th, but pars on the third, fifth and the double on the ninth meant that the course did not allow him an inch off the long holes.

Daniel Berger collected two birdies and an eagle on eleventh, for a better return on the par-5 holes. He worked his way to a 66 with six birides, an eagle and two bogeys. The second came at the final hole, the 18th proving to be a rough ride for many golfers.

Five birdies in seven holes along the back nine helped Abraham Ancer earn a share of the lead.

McIlroy was in a reflective mood after his round, the highlight of which came through an eagle on the par-4 14th hole.

“I wish it was a different time of the year the way I’m playing,” McIlroy said. “But there’s no reason why I can’t pick up again in January and keep playing the way I’m playing. I’m still going to keep myself ticking over these next few weeks. I’m not going to completely shut the clubs away. My game’s in good shape and I want to keep it there.”

In stark contrast, Berger hasn’t played once since the Ryder Cup. He has been taking time off and spending it with family and friends.

“It’s probably the longest break I’ve had in my professional career,” said Berger. “It was a little scary taking over a month off because I haven’t done that in a while, wondering if you’re going to come back and still have it. But mentally and physically, I needed the break.”

Ancer is one of eight golfers making his Hero World Challenge debut. Sam Burns (71), Harris English (75), Matt Fitzpatrick (71), Tyrrell Hatton (69), Viktor Hovland (68), Collin Morikawa (68) and Scottie Scheffler (71) are the others.

Morikawa has already made this a memorable week, getting engaged with his long time friend on Teusday night. A win could ice the cake, taking him to world No.1, at just 24.