Rory McIlroy, showing signs of turning corner, takes the lead in Shanghai

Rory McIlroy found himself in a spot that must have seemed vaguely familiar — atop the leaderboard.

McIlroy looked more like a two-time major champion Thursday when he opened with a 7-under 65 to build a two-shot lead in HSBC Champions. McIlroy was at his best around the turn when he made four birdies in a five-hole stretch.

The 24-year-old from Northern Ireland has not won all year.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, coming off a win last week at the BMW Masters, and Jamie Donaldson each had 67. Jordan Spieth and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose were at 68.

British Open champion Phil Mickelson had a chance to join McIlroy in the lead until putting two balls in the water on the par-5 eighth hole and making a quadruple-bogey 9.