It is extremely rare for Rory McIlroy’s caddy to walk into the scorer’s hut on the first day of any tournament enquiring of the cut-off mark.
But that was the scenario after day one of the UBS Hong Kong Open, with McIlroy’s shock score of a three-over-par 73 only the second time he has recorded an over par figure in 19 rounds at the stately Fanling course.
JP Fitzgerald was informed McIlroy was lying in a share of 93rd place in the 144-player field and two strokes outside the cut.
The world No 1 also trailed nine shots behind little-known Spaniard Javier Colomo, who shot a six-under-par 64 to lead the $2m (€1.56m) co-sanctioned event by a stroke from Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australia’s Andrew Dodt.
Jimenez is a twice former UBS Hong Kong Open winner and if successful a third time would become the Tour’s oldest ever champion, at 48 years and 318 days.
Ireland’s Des Smyth still holds that record, being 48 years and 34 days old when he captured the 2001 Madeira Islands Open.
Despite complaining of tiredness following his Singapore Open effort that secured the Race to Dubai title, McIlroy promised a better effort today.
“I wasn’t my best mentally today and found myself getting a little frustrated but I wouldn’t read too much into this round as a good score is in there,” he said.
“I just need the head and the golf to match up and I’ll be right back into the tournament but then when you’re a bit tired it’s hard to lift yourself.
“So just don’t write Rory McIlroy off just yet.”
Tired or not, McIlroy did find some inspiration when forced to play left-handed when his ball ended up against a bush at the sixth.
“I’ve found myself having to turn the club back to front to play a couple of left-handed shots this year,” he said smiling.
“Though I would rather not play any if I had my way, and then I’m not sure if I could break a hundred if I had to play the full 18 left handed.
“So if I can go out early and hole some putts I will be okay and besides there is enough inspiration what I’ve done in the past around here to go low, and you can go low around here.”
Dubliner Peter Lawrie landed a 115-yard wedge into the breeze to a foot for birdie at the last on his way to a round of two-under-par 70.
Lawrie had actually capped his round at his third hole of the day, the par-five 13th, where he grabbed an eagle three.
“I had air-mailed the green at 12 to walk off with bogey so it was nice to hit the 3-wood to 15 feet for eagle at the next,” he said.
“But that has to be the hardest round of golf I’ve seen here in Hong Kong since I first started coming here in 2003.”
Lawrie, who is 60th in the Race to Dubai, is tied with 61st-placed David Howell of England but is already five shots clear of Australia’s Brett Rumford (62nd) and England’s Anthony Wall (63nd), who are both on three over par.
Pádraig Harrington was observed spending a considerable amount of time after his round of 71 working on his putting.
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