The Northern Irishman won at PGA National in 2012 with a victory that sent him to the world number one spot for the first time in his career and signalled his arrival as one of the sport's true stars.

McIlroy walked off the course just a year later during his first round, talking about being in a "bad place" but later saying a painful toothache had been behind his withdrawal.

Twelve months ago, he played some outstanding golf but surrendered a three-stroke lead with an error-strewn 74 in the final round before losing out to American Russell Henley in a four-way playoff.

It looked as though McIlroy's bad vibes at the Honda Classic were once again back on Thursday when he lost his ball with an errant drive from the tee on the first hole, where he ended up with a double-bogey.

The strong wind that afflicted the early starters had intensified by the time McIlroy teed off and he said that was a major factor during his round.

"The wind just took it to the right," the four-times major champion told reporters about his tee shot on the opening hole. "I was just trying to play a normal sort of straight shot there and I didn't really try and do much with it.

"Even the second ball I hit, I tried to put some draw on it and the wind still moved it to the right. It was very strong out there and very difficult to control the ball."

Another double, on the par-three fifth, left McIlroy at four over par but he restored some respectability to his round with birdies on the final two holes.

"The conditions were obviously very tricky from the start," the Northern Irishman said. "You know, from the first hole, it was always going to be a day like that.

"I feel like I salvaged something out of the round the last couple of holes, but it was just a day to keep trying, not to give up and know that anything around level, one or two over par, still isn't out of it.

"So it wasn't quite what I wanted, but hopefully tomorrow morning we get calmer conditions and we're able to give ourselves a few more opportunities and make some birdies," said the 25-year-old.

"Today wasn't obviously what I wanted to start with but if I can get it into red numbers tomorrow, you know, I'm right back in the tournament."

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