McIlroy hopeful form could be back after debut with new caddie

(Reuters) - Four-times major winner Rory McIlroy has said he feels he could be close to returning to top form after shooting a three-under-par first round of 67 at the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman, who has not won since claiming the Tour Championship and FedExCup title last September and last won a major in 2014, said he felt his round, which left him two shots behind first round leader Thomas Pieters, was just a couple of shots away from what he was looking for.

"I’m capable. With a couple of better wedge shots it could have been a really low score, but I played OK. I drove it well. I shot a 67," he said.

"It’s there, just a matter of repeatedly doing that and being a little more consistent."

One big difference to his game was the absence of long-time caddie JP Fitzgerald, whom he split from after the British Open, following nine years working together.

Fitzgerald's replacement for this tournament and the upcoming PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, is McIlroy's best friend Harry Diamond.

"It was good. A little weird at the start," McIlroy said about the new partnership with Diamond.

"Obviously, it’s been nine years since I’ve had anyone else on my bag. Just hearing a different voice it’s a little different. But we did well out there.

"We consulted each other when we needed to and I sort of took on my own stuff when I felt like I was good. Then whatever decisions I made, whether they were good or bad, was on me so I didn’t have anyone to get frustrated at other than myself."

McIlroy said taking more accountability was an aim of his and could spark his game.

"I think just being cognizant of where I’m pitching certain shots, and where they’re finishing and if you could just get into that shot a little bit more it might make you a little more committed to hitting that shot," he said.

"I hadn't written anything in the yardage book for a long time so it was good to get back to that and just take ownership a little bit more."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Julian Shea)