- BMW PGA Championship, Round One
McIlroy fails to fire as Els & Donald start well
Rory McIlroy endured a disappointing start to the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday, as Luke Donald and Ernie Els - dipping into his vast knowledge of the Wentworth course - found themselves among the early leaders.
Donald, one of the later starters, reached the turn three-under par for the tournament and picked up another shot with a birdie at the 18th to finish four-under, just two behind the early pacesetters.
Els, the man primarily responsible for the comprehensive recent redesign of the Surrey layout, had gone one better in the morning by completing his first nine holes in four-under after a smart start and held on with two birdies and two bogeys on the back nine, eventually signing for a four-under round of 68 after finishing with three consecutive pars.
That was enough to give him a share of the early clubhouse lead, alongside Marc Warren, George Coetzee and Robert Rock - who is looking for his second win of the year after triumphing in Abu Dhabi.
That lead was eventually overhauled, however - as David Drysdale (after seeing his second shot inexplicably bounce out of the water at the last) and Peter Lawrie both carded rounds of 66 to take the lead at the end of the first round.
McIlroy, however, suffered altogether different fortunes - as a number of uncharacteristically inconsistent swings saw the Northern Irishman find trouble with punishing regularity.
It looked to be going well for the 23-year-old when he bounced back from a bogey at the par-three second to eagle the long fourth, before reaching two-under with a birdie at the seventh. Then his swing deserted him, however, as he picked up three bogeys in a row to slip down the field.
A wild swing out of bounds at the par-five 12th saw him add another bogey, although he picked that shot back up at the next. A recovery would not be forthcoming, however, as even a birdie at the 17th could not make up for a double-bogey (after finding trees off the tee) at the hole prior.
A par at the last saw McIlroy sign for a two-over round of 74, leaving him with work to do on Friday to ensure he makes the weekend - the minimum expectation for the world No. 1.
Compatriot Graeme McDowell finds himself in the same position, remarkably - after a triple-bogey eight at the last ruined what was otherwise a workmanlike round. The disaster was unfortunate for the 2010 US Open champion, who was forced to call a two-shot penalty on himself after seeing his ball move after he ruffled the fern it was resting on.
Elsewhere, world No. 10 Justin Rose, Alvaro Quiros and Jamie Donaldson slipped in at five-under to keep the heat on Drysdale and Lawrie, with Scott Jamieson and James Morrison among those who then matched Els' early score.
Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Paul Lawrie all completed their opening 18 holes at three-under, with youngster Tom Lewis among a group that includes Jose Maria Olazabal and Lee Westwood a shot behind following rounds of 70.
It was a pleasing result for Westwood, who found himself two-over after three but recovered with six birdies over his next 15 holes to eventually finish under par.
Ian Poulter and Darren Clarke are one-under after their first rounds, as is world No. 11 Martin Kaymer - after he made birdies at his final three holes.