"It's always nice when you're a part of a group that's got a little bit of a buzz around it," he said.
On Thursday morning, McIlroy turned that good feeling into a solid start, shooting two under par through the first 10 holes at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and finishing the round at three-under 69 in a group of 14 players tied for 11th.
Things did not go quite as well for Spieth, who stood at two over through 10 holes and finished at three-over 75. Still, the grouping of the No. 1-ranked player and the recent Masters winner added something special to a tournament known as golf's unofficial fifth major.
Among other big-name players to head the wrong direction in the opening round were Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who each shot one-over 73, which is tied for 77th.
Charley Hoffman, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na and David Hearn are the first-round leaders after each shot five-under 67.