THE body language seemed to suggest Rory McIlroy was disinterested after recording a shock 76 on the opening day of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
McIlroy hardly got out of the ‘Burma Road’ West Course slow lane in managing just two birdies, but also three bogeys, two double bogeys and a poor pair of pars to end his round.
It left the present world number six trailing a dozen strokes behind world number two Luke Donald, who equalled his lowest ever European Tour score with a display that included eight birdies for a seven-under-par 64 on the reduced par 71 layout. Donald’s effort again presents him with the chance to go ahead of Lee Westwood in the world rankings after his fellow countryman recorded a 73.
Sweden’s Johan Edfors and Italian sensation Matteo Manassero are next best on five under par, with play being disrupted for 36 minutes late in the day due to a thunderstorm.
Thunderclouds earlier on had hung over McIlroy, who was four over par through 10 holes before his only birdies at the 11th and 13th holes. He then dropped three strokes in two holes at 15 and 16 before ending with par-fives at both the 17th and 18th.
His 76 is his poorest Wentworth round since a 77 on day two when he made his tournament debut in 2008. Much later in the day, and with still some 60 players still on the course, McIlroy got onto Twitter to report: “Just been to Harrods for a bit of retail therapy. I needed it.”
Darren Clarke, who played alongside McIlroy, is the best of the 10 Irish after carding a two-under-par 69 to be tied with the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Spain’s Alvaro Quiros and Frenchman Thomas Levet.
Clarke was two under after three holes after hitting a six-iron on both occasions into the first and holing a 20-foot birdie putt before sinking a 12-foot gem at the third.
However, the new Iberdrola Open champion then produced 15 pars in succession. “I mis-hit two shots all day and for the most part, I hit the ball where I wanted to,” he said. “When I won in Majorca I tried to stay patient and that’s not always what I have been very good at but then it was also the case today. I had a break before Majorca that recharged the batteries somewhat, totally different frame of mind. So to go there and win, and then to come here, in probably our biggest European Tour event outside the majors, is huge for me and I’m enjoying playing again.”
And as for his playing partner McIlroy, Clarke offered the following.
“He just struggled and his ball striking wasn’t as good as it normally is,” said Clarke. “He just had one of those off days, and he is still that type of guy could go out and shoot 62 tomorrow.”
And Clarke revealed a heavy European Tour schedule in coming weeks as his reason for not entering Monday’s 36-hole US Open qualifier at Walton Heath. But while Clarke has ruled out travelling to Congressional, reigning US Open champion Greame McDowell cited a stomach ailment in carding a six-over-par 75.
McDowell’s round was a mix of birdies at three and four but also included six bogeys. “Tee-to-green I played okay but I just couldn’t get to grips on the greens,” he said. “But I just felt a little sick this morning. I felt like I was going to throw-up at any time. Then the putter didn’t help matters as that made me want to throw up.”
McDowell played alongside Donald, his Ryder Cup-winning team-mate, who outscored the Portrush player by 11 strokes.
“It is difficult to play alongside a guy who’s got it on a piece of string at the moment, and his putter is just so hot right now,” said McDowell.
“That just compounds the way you feel. He and Westwood are the best players in the world at the moment but then Luke is impressive, very impressive. His iron play is off the planet and he just chips and putts like God.”
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