World number one Rory McIlroy found himself six strokes behind after another poor start to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth today – and Graeme McDowell was in the same position after being give a two-stroke penalty on the final hole.
McIlroy’s two-over-par 74 included going out of bounds “by an inch” at the long 12th, something that was followed by him throwing a club in what he called “a release of frustration”.
Fellow Northern Irishman McDowell fell foul of the rules after going into the bushes.
First the ball moved a fraction as he approached it, and because he did not replace it – the incident was caught on television – a second shot was handed to him by European Tour chief referee John Paramor afterwards.
Playing partner Lee Westwood, who came back from an early double bogey to card a 70, called it harsh, but McDowell said after signing for a triple-bogey eight on the hole: “It’s my fault.
“I probably should have called for a referee. That would have saved me one shot, but what are you supposed to do – the whole area was sort of bouncing.
“I was aware of it and asked for it to be looked at. The rules are there for everybody’s protection.”
Out in front early on with four-under-par 68s were McIlroy’s playing partner Ernie Els – the man who toughed up the course two years ago – fellow South African George Coetzee, Scot Marc Warren and England’s Robert Rock.
McIlroy opened with a 76 last year - that put him 12 adrift of eventual winner Luke Donald - and said: ``It was a bit of deja vu.
“Four bogeys in five holes around the turn was very disappointing. I feel like I’m playing pretty well and I’ve just got to go and shoot the scores.”
On the shot which went out of bounds, he added: “I just tried to cut it and double-crossed it. There are four par fives and you feel you should be taking advantage of them and three or four under should be the worst you do.”
He did eagle the 552-yard fourth and was one under after seven, but then the round got away from him.
Westwood, who lost a play-off to Donald a year ago and is making his 19th attempt to take the title, missed the green and three-putted the third to stand two over.
There were two bogeys after that but also six birdies, three of them in a row from the 12th.
Out on the course, Ireland’s Peter Lawrie was off to a real flyer – an eagle at the fourth like McIlroy and birdies on the second, fifth and sixth to be five under and leader by one.
Donald was among the later starters as he tried to join Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only men to make a successful defence of the trophy.