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McIlroy rediscovers his range in Kuala Lumpur

Rory McIlroy unleashed one of the longest drives of his career as he made a good start to the rest of his golfing life with a first round, three-under-par 69 at the Malaysian Open yesterday.

McIlroy was again the centre of attention after his nightmare final round in Augusta, but he coped with that and sweltering temperatures in Kuala Lumpur to finish five shots behind the leader Alexander Noren.

It was not such a good day for Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. The South African bemoaned jet-lag and lost clubs as he carded a 73 after an early tee-time. McIlroy showed no ill-affects from a 25-hour journey to Malaysia and his clubs arriving late as he birdied three of his opening five holes. Playing alongside world No 1 Martin Kaymer (70), his drive on the fifth hole passed the 400-yard mark thanks to a favourable bounce.

The 21-year-old, when asked, said it was probably the longest drive of his career. "You don't say this too often but I was almost too close to the green on a par five. It must have went at least 400 yards. I was lucky it hit off the cart-path and it could have went out of bounds but it stayed in bounds for me and set up an easy birdie."

As the round progressed, however, a few loose shots crept in and his Augusta final-round putting woes returned when he missed a short par effort on 14 for his only dropped shot of the day. "I would have definitely taken it before the round," said McIlroy. "I knew I was going to put a few bad swings on it just because of the way I was feeling but you know hopefully as the week progresses I can get better and shoot some better scores."