In a flagship event sponsored by BMW, folk tend to like watching one or two classic marques motoring up the leaderboard. With no disrespect to Lucas Bjerregaard, Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt, having this largely underwhelming trinity filling the first three places on the order was akin to having an Austin Maxi parked in the forecourt.
Credit where credit is due, of course. Bjerregaard’s bogey-free 65 was certainly manufactured with style, while the 66s of Burmester and Fichardt were neatly assembled, but it was Rory McIlroy who typically became the main focus of attention in this golfing showroom.
An eventful five-under 67, the Northern Irishman’s best opening round in nine appearances in the BMW PGA Championship, left him handily placed heading into the second day.
A quite thunderous overnight downpour which would have given Noah palpitations had softened things up over the West Course and a largely dull, showery day with little wind encouraged an early offensive.
One-under at the turn, McIlroy, who won this title in 2014 before going on to have the best season of his career with a double whammy of major wins, moved up the gears on the inward half and a quartet of birdies at 10, 12, 14 and 16 bolstered his menacing advances.
With two par-fives to finish there was the potential for more profitable gains but he parred the 17th and then things didn’t quite click on the last. Well, they did but not in a way McIlroy would’ve wanted.
As he prepared to unleash his approach to the 18th, a nearby photographer’s camera went off at the top of the backswing and his ball flew off right. It could’ve been worse. Only the intervention of a tree stopped it hurtling out of bounds as it ricocheted back and finished short of the green.
McIlroy went for the grandstand finish and his superbly executed eagle attempt with a pitch from some 30 yards bounced in the hole and popped out again. The roars for Rory rose in volume. The groans of despair when he missed the short birdie putt and had to settle for a par were almost as loud.
That final putt certainly wasn’t one for the cameras. “Was there a cameraman you wanted dead out there?,” asked one reporter in the aftermath. “I wouldn’t say dead,” responded McIlroy with a wry grin. If that had been Monty, the photographers union would probably be having a whip round for a funeral wreath as we speak.
“It’s a tough enough golf shot without something going off at the top of your swing, but it happens,” added McIlory, who had crushed a drive off the 18th tee and was in a good position to get to the green in two. “It’s fine. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it.”
Despite the anti-climax of the finish, McIlroy was encouraged by what he had produced. “I played better, a lot better, than I have the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I saw some good shots, some better drives and I putted well for the main part. If I can do more of the same over the next three days I should have a decent chance.
“There are courses you feel you can chase on and be okay but if you start to chase here it can bite you pretty quickly. To shoot a 67 to start off is great.”
A win at Wentworth would do him wonders as he continues to look at the wider picture with the height of the season looming.
“Obviously there are the next three days to worry about on from that, I’ve got a few big tournaments coming up in the States, and then a very busy summer with a lot of important stuff coming up,” he noted. “Hopefully it can be a good summer.”
It didn’t feel particularly summery yesterday but Bjerregaard made hay while the sun didn’t shine as the Dane continued his resurgence in form.
After a run of four missed cuts in a row, the 26-year-old, who won in Portugal last season, has finished sixth and fifth in his last two events in China and Sicily and his fine 65 kept the momentum rolling as he moved to the head of the standings.
For all those making good early progress in the Surrey stockbroker belt, there were plenty who saw their ambitions head south on the West Course.
Padraig Harrington, who would be the first to admit that this neck of the woods is not his happiest hunting ground, sagged to a 78.
Things weren’t quite as bad for Ian Poulter, another player with a dicey record at Wentworth, but having stated on the eve of the championship that he was keen to make up for “15 years of rubbish golf here”, there was no hiding his lip-biting fury after a bogey and a double-bogey at 14 and 15 left him with a 74.
“Angry, disappointed, frustrated, I’ll leave it at those words because if I use any others you’ll write it down and I’ll be made to look like a right …” We’ll leave it at that, Ian.
Source : HeraldScotland