Not vintage Rory but McIlroy hails "step in the right direction" in Napa

Not vintage Rory but McIlroy hails "step in the right direction" in Napa

The familiar tale of Rory McIlroy's streaky putting was near the top of the agenda as the former world No 1 found himself five shots off the pace after the first round of the 2015-16 season opener in California.

The 26-year from Co Down carded a four under 68 in the Open at Silverado Country Club's North Course in the Napa Valley in California as Brendan Steele shot a 63 to lead by one from Jonathan Vegas on nine under par.

After taking 30 putts, holing little of significance, McIlroy pronounced himself happy with his improved ball-striking in his first start of the 2016 season even though he holed little

"I think that's more to do with the play,” he said of his flat demeanour. “We were sort of making pars and there was a lot of chances that were being missed out there.”

McIlroy worked on his putting with Dave Stockton earlier this week but the lesson has yet to  show its full effect, though he finished a slow round strongly with five birdies in his last 12.

“I felt like once I got into it I started to hit some good shots,” he told “From tee-to-green, definitely an improvement on my last outing at the TOUR Championship, so comfortable with that.”

With wine-tasting a distraction, he quipped: "There is a lot of stuff to do off the golf course as well. Just trying to find a balance between not feeling too hung over when you tee it up the next day.”