World number one Rory McIlroy admitted his patience was tested by a frustrating opening round in the defence of his BMW PGA Championship title on Thursday.
McIlroy was among the early starters at Wentworth as he looked to claim a third win in four events, having followed his victory in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play with a third consecutive top-10 finish in the Players Championship and a seven-shot triumph at Quail Hollow on Sunday.
But the 26-year-old struggled to take advantage of perfect conditions as he recorded four birdies and three bogeys in a round of 71, admitting afterwards that mental fatigue was a factor in the fourth of five tournaments in succession.
“Physically I am all right – I got back to my hotel at 4:30pm yesterday and did not leave it until 6:30 this morning – but mentally I could feel myself getting a little angry out there,” McIlroy said.
“Acceptance of bad shots is the thing I have been doing so well and I feel like my patience was wearing a bit thin today. I felt I was standing still at one under but looking at the leaderboard it was not so bad.”
McIlroy was only three off the pace when he finished, but then saw former European number one Robert Karlsson birdie two of the last three holes to claim the clubhouse lead on five under.
Karlsson has suffered a number of problems with form and fitness since topping the Order of Merit in 2008, most famously withdrawing from the 2012 Open Championship on the eve of the event because he was unable to start his backswing.
The 45-year-old Swede at least has happier memories of Wentworth, shooting a course-record 62 in the third round in 2010 after having to hire a private jet to get back to London on Saturday morning because he had flown home to Monaco the day before thinking he had missed the cut.
“That Sunday didn’t go so good because I was tired, but it’s always great to be here,” said Karlsson, who held a one-shot lead over England’s Chris Wood, Spanish pair Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jorge Campillo and former US PGA champion YE Yang.
“It’s a great event and I definitely have a lot of good memories.”
Wood has played just six events this season after spending five months on the sidelines with a broken bone in his wrist, suffered when he fell during a tennis lesson in October.
“It’s a long way for me to fall and it hurt,” joked the 6ft 6in Bristolian. “I was in a cast for two months and it was a nightmare to miss out on the desert swing this year – particularly as I won in Qatar in 2013 – watching on telly when it’s freezing at home and 30 degrees in Dubai.
“It’s been a struggle and feels like I have been working hard to finish 30th every week. I did finish third in Morocco but I think it was always going to be a bit of a battle after five months.
“But we are coming into the meat of the season now so hopefully I can find my form.”
Wood carded five birdies in his first 14 holes and looked set to take advantage of the closing par fives, but pulled his second shot on the 17th out of bounds and missed from close range on the 18th.
“It’s disappointing to finish six, five but the second shot on the 17th was the only poor one I hit all day,” he added. “I’ve been fighting a left shot for a year now.”
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher had been forced to withdraw from the event before play began due to a wrist injury, while three-time major winner Padraig Harrington lasted just two holes before retiring with a shoulder problem.
There was better news for England’s Andrew Johnston, who won a BMW M4 for a hole-in-one on the 10th, which he marked with an exuberant chest-bump celebration with a spectator.