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McNeill in early tie for lead at blustery PGA National

NEWS
News 26 Feb 2016, 05:25 IST
George McNeill tees off on the 9th hole during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National. Peter Casey-USA TODAY SportsFeb 25, 2016; Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA; xxxxxxx during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
George McNeill tees off on the 9th hole during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National. Peter Casey-USA TODAY SportsFeb 25, 2016; Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA; xxxxxxx during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - American George McNeill relied on a red-hot putter in blustery conditions as he moved into a share of the early lead in the opening round of the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida on Thursday.

A double winner on the PGA Tour who has missed the cut in each of his five starts this season, McNeill made a welcome return to form by firing a three-under-par 67 on the challenging PGA National layout.

The 40-year-old, whose most recent victory came at the 2012 Puerto Rico Open, mixed six birdies with a lone bogey and a double at the par-four 11th to end the round level with Irishman Shane Lowry and Swede David Lingmerth.

Former PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner opened with a 68 while five-times major champion Phil Mickelson was one of six players who carded a 69 as winds gusted up to 30 mph (48 kph).

"It's a good start to the tournament," left-hander Mickelson told reporters after a round that included four birdies on his front nine and two bogeys after the turn.

"I got off to a great start with a birdie on my first hole and played fairly solid golf throughout. I let a couple slide on the back (nine) but I can't wait to get back out there and play again tomorrow."

McNeill moved into a three-way tie at the top after twice saving par with 10-foot putts on his outward nine, and producing another impressive par-save from 18 feet at the short 15th.

"It just seemed like when I got on the green I made it, or if I didn't make it, it was close to going in," said McNeill. "I don't know how many one-putts I had, but it felt like quite a few."

Northern Ireland's world number three Rory McIlroy and fifth-ranked American Rickie Fowler, who head a strong field at PGA National, were among the late starters on Thursday.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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