Red-hot McIlroy backed to assume Ryder leadership role

Rory McIlroy is in a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick after shooting an opening round of 64 last night.

The Holywood golfer was in imperious form, shooting four birdies on the front nine, three more on the back nine as well as an eagle at the 15th. The only blot on his copybook was a bogey at the 13th but he heads into today’s second round in great shape, tied alongside Webb Simpson, Bo Van Pelt and Graham DeLaet at the top. Tiger Woods is just one shot back on seven under.

Meanwhile, European Ryder Cup captains past and present are expecting McIlroy to take more of a leading role in this month’s Ryder Cup.

Two years ago he went to Celtic Manor as one of six wide-eyed European rookies looking, listening and learning. However, last week McIlroy spoke of what he felt was now an obligation, as a two-time Major winner and currently the game’s best player, to be more outspoken and take more of a leading role in the European team room.

And both the current captain, Jose Maria Olazabal and immediate past captain, Colin Montgomerie concur.

“Rory and everyone in the team have to be leaders in a way because at the end of the day they have to deliver,” said Olazabal, after carding a first round 71 in the centenary KLM Open. “But then I will be relying on the big guns in the team and Rory is now one of the big guns. And Rory has been playing really well and his win in Boston is what you sort of expect from him now.

“You expect that kind of discipline from the number one player in the world and it was nice to see him win in Boston.”

Montgomerie had so much confidence in McIlroy he threw him into the deep end on the very first morning and he then played in all but one of five sessions.

“It was difficult in Wales to look upon Rory as a rookie, which he was, given at the time he was number three in the world,” said Monty. “Very rarely does that happen in the Ryder Cup team that you have a player so high up the rankings and competing in a Ryder Cup for a first time. So I would expect him to step up to the plate now.”

* England’s Graeme Storm produced a new Hilversum course record of a seven under par 63 given major changes to the course to lead the KLM Open by two strokes.

German Ryder Cup star Martin Kaymer, and 2010 KLM Open winner, returned to form with a 65. Peter Lawrie and Gareth Maybin head the Irish contingent with 69s.

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