McIlroy fires 69 in return, 3 off lead

(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Rory McIlroy's patience was tested Thursday on his comeback and he needed three late birdies to register a 3-under 69 that left him three strokes behind first-round leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Starting on the 10th hole, McIlroy made 11 straight pars, which included a three-putt par on the par-5 18th.

Fleetwood, the defending Abu Dhabi champion and last year's European Tour money-list winner, continued his excellent form by hitting all 18 greens in regulation.

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