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Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead after the first day of the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.
McIlroy needs to win at East Lake and hope Dustin Johnson finishes in a share of second or worse to secure the lucrative FedEx Cup title and the four-time major winner is well-placed to challenge for the victory after an opening two-under-par 68.
That scenario looked to be in doubt when McIlroy bogeyed his opening hole before back-to-back double-bogeys at the seventh and eighth. Fortunately three successive birdies from the third meant he reached the turn in two-over.
After parring the first two holes of the back nine, McIlroy hit four birdies in a row to move to two-under and he parred the final two to sign for a pleasing 68.
"It would be okay for the Ryder Cup next week I think, playing like this. I'm just happy that the score at the end of the day is under par," McIlroy told Sky Sports.
"I said to JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie) out there, I am mixing a lot of bad with a lot of good so if I can eradicate the mistakes, seven birdies around this golf course is pretty good and as you can see, once I get a couple of birdies I get some confidence and momentum.
"I am actually more comfortable on the breaking putts. The ones that I missed were dead straight."
McIlroy finds himself two shots behind Johnson, Kevin Chappell and Hideki Matsuyama, who all fired rounds of 66 to sit on four-under-par.
Johnson heads the FedEx Cup standings and he is in prime position to land the $10million bonus after an opening round that included five birdies and a bogey.
He got off to a solid start with a birdie on the very first hole and he added two more at the fifth and sixth to reach the turn in three-under.
The US Open champion moved into the lead when he birdied the 12th only to drop a shot at the next hole. After four successive pars he birdied the 18th to end the day in a share of the lead.
"I know there's a lot on the line, but there's a lot on the line every week," said Johnson. "I come out with the same mentality. I felt really relaxed out there all day."
World number one Jason Day is in a three-way tie for fourth on three-under alongside Kevin Kisner and Si Woo Kim, while Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Paul Casey sit alongside McIlroy on two-under.
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