Rory McIlroy revealed he approaches Bay Hill in a similar way to course specialist Tiger Woods after making a superb start to his bid for a second victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
McIlroy, who claimed the title in 2018 and has finished no worse than tied sixth in each of the last four years, fired seven birdies – including five in a row on his back nine – and one bogey in an opening 66 to share the lead with Canada's Corey Conners.
US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is a shot off the pace after a 67, with Scotland's Martin Laird, the 2011 champion, part of the group on three under alongside Lee Westwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland.
"I feel like you don't have to do anything special to shoot a good score here," McIlroy said after his round. "You can be really conservative off the tees if you want to be. There's a bunch of irons that you can hit off tees.
"I think the toughest thing about this course is the par-3s and I played them in three under today. So that was a bonus.
"But I've watched Tiger enough here over the years and the way he played this course was, he played it very conservatively, he took care of the par fives and that was usually good enough to get the job done – so sort of take a little bit of a leaf out of his book."
"I've watched Tiger enough here over the years and the way he played this course was, he played it very conservatively, he took care of the par-5s and that was usually good enough to get the job done – so sort of take a little bit of a leaf out of his book." – Rory McIlroy
Woods, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational eight times and also claimed his first US Junior Amateur title at Bay Hill in 1991, is currently recovering in hospital after suffering serious leg injuries in a car accident in Los Angeles on February 23.
Starting from the 10th on Thursday, McIlroy birdied the 14th and 17th before making a mess of the 18th from the middle of the fairway and showing his frustration by slamming his club into the turf following a clumsy chip from short of the green.
A somewhat sheepish smile was back on McIlroy's face after he holed from 55 feet on the 2nd, the putt having been struck much too hard but hitting the pin and dropping for an unlikely birdie.
There was nothing fortunate about the curling birdie putt McIlroy holed from 20 feet on the 3rd, nor the two putts from long range for another on the par-5 4th.
And after a superb approach to the fifth set up another birdie, McIlroy soon made it five in a row by finding the green on the par-5 6th in two and two-putting from 25 feet.
Former World No.1 Jason Day enjoyed a strong finish to be just four behind McIlroy after his two-under 70.
The Australian is tied 15th after posting birdies on the 9th, 16th and 18th, with a lonesome bogey on the par-three second.
The Queenslander is joined by some of the game's big names on the same score, including Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood.
Cameron Percy finished even par while Marc Leishman was two over for the round.
- Phil Casey, PAA