Rory McIlroy struggles to shake off rust at Quail Hollow

Defending champion Rory McIlroy faces an uphill task if he is to retain the $7.3 million Wells Fargo Championship on the US PGA Tour after yesterday’s first round at Quail Hollow, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rory McIlroy struggles to shake off rust at Quail Hollow

The world No.3 had to settle for a one over par 73 that left him seven shots behind Anirban Lahiri, a successful member of the European Tour from India. It was also a difficult day for Pádraig Harrington who finished a stroke further back on 74.

The event provided McIlroy with his first PGA Tour win in 2010 and he won it by seven shots last year. He also has three other top 10 finishes to his name in six starts but for much of yesterday he seemed decidedly rusty in his first tournament appearance for three weeks. He began at the 10th and bogeys at the 12th and 13th and a double bogey at the 18th saw him to the turn in a four over par 40.

Things looked up for McIlroy, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Wednesday, when he rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on the 2nd (his 11th). However, he gave the shot straight back when a pulled drive to the next ended up at the base of a tree. After that, though, it was largely vintage McIlroy as he reeled off three successive birdies from the 5th, the highlight at the 250 yards, par 3, 6th where he left a majestic four iron a mere three feet from the hole.

Rory went on to reach the long 7th in two only to see his lengthy putt for eagle lip out.

Harrington played the Quail Hollow layout the right way round and also got off to a poor start, dropping strokes at 4, 6 and 7 before picking up a birdie at the 8th to reach the turn in 38.

Another bogey followed at the 14th which was more than offset by an eagle at the 15th but the 18th cost him the 5th bogey of a frustrating round of two over.

Meanwhile Australia’s Jason Scrivener, Italy’s Francesco Laporta, and France’s Thomas Linard share the lead after the opening day of the Hassan Trophy.

Scrivener, Laporta and Linard all carded four-under-par rounds of 68 at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.

Waterford’s Kevin Phelan is best of the Irish after a round of 70 left him two under.

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