Woodland leads Tournament of Champions, McIlroy three back

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The Safeway Open champion made his debut in winners-only field Thursday with a 7-under 66 on the Plantation course to build a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland.

The former world No.1, who shares the course record at Kapalua, mixed two birdies with two bogeys on the front nine before storming home with four back-nine birdies.

McIlroy usually starts the year on the European Tour but the former world number one opted to kick-off his campaign on the PGA Tour via the Tournament of Champions, where he is three shots off the pace. Johnson and Thomas are the past two winners at Kapalua.

"He was just watching me play for his preparation".

Johnson accidentally hit the wrong ball from the native area following an errant drive, and was assessed a two-shot penalty which resulted in a double bogey.

"I do them in Australia every year; I think they're cool as they give good access for the fans".

McIlroy added: "I've enjoyed the last couple of days, flighting different shots, hitting different trajectories".

Major winners Rory McIlroy and Jason Day also ended the day tied for sixth alongside Kizzire. Kizzire aced the par-three eighth hole for his first hole-in-one on the tour.

It was the first tournament day where the players experienced the new rules introduced by the R & A and the USGA, with a few players choosing to putt with the flagstick left in, notably Bryson DeChambeau, an advocate of putting with the flag in place, who did it even from close range.

"I was just trying to hit it on the green", said Kizzire during the first on-course interview of the year.

He qualified by winning the Greenbrier tournament in July.

Ariya's team confirmed to the LPGA, according to a tour website posting, that she has made the change ahead of the season-opening Tournament of Champions on January 17-20 at Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

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