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McIlroy makes torrid start at Fanling

ESPN staff
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Rory McIlroy faces an uphill battle to defend his Hong Kong Open title © PA Photos
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Hong Kong Open leaderboard

Rory McIlroy's bid to cap his Race to Dubai victory with a successful defence of his Hong Kong Open crown lies in tatters following a torrid opening round of 73.

McIlroy has had a stellar year, but he has struggled for consistency on occasions and he was all over the place at Fanling. He set the tone for his round by missing a four-foot putt for a par on the first. A birdie at the third got him back to level par, but he added three more bogeys to card a three-over opening 18 holes.

Citing fatigue as a reason behind his disaapopiting effort, McIlroy said: "I was struggling a little bit with my energy levels; I felt lethargic.

"I think after clinching the Race to Dubai it was always going to be a little bit of a letdown. I tried hard to lift myself after what happened but that gets harder when you are feeling a bit tired."

The world No. 1 sits nine shots off the lead which is held by Javier Colombo, the Spaniard making birdies on four of his final five holes to storm ahead with a 64.

Colombo's surge overhauled veteran Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez who set the early clubhouse target with a round of 65, but it could have been better as he made bogeys on his final couple of holes.

"I played very solid all day," Jimenez, who is looking to snap a two-year winless run, said. "I'm putting very well. It's a pity that I missed a fairway on the ninth hole and then I had to lay up and I missed a three metre putt.

"Then on the last hole, I got a big flyer, and that is the defence of the golf course, when you miss the fairway and go in the rough."

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal added to the Spanish flavour at the top of the leaderboard with a an impressive four-under 66.

Luke Donald is in action in Japan and he has made a solid start at the Dunlop Phoenix, with a six-under 65 handing him a share of the first-round lead with Hideto Tanihara and Brendan Jones.

At the SA Open, Merrick Bremner matched the course record at the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate to take a two-shot lead.

The world No. 500 hit a brilliant eight-under 64 to power ahead of fellow South Afrtican Matthew Carvell and Henrik Stenson.

The 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is well placed at four-under, while pre-tournament favourite Martin Kaymer is on two-under.

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