Sport Golf

Sunday 30 April 2017

McIlroy joins front-runners but faces stiff competition for Korea title

LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR

RORY McILROY led a veritable cavalry charge into the weekend at the Korea Kolon Open yesterday. Prominent in a five-man tie for the lead on five-under, the Holywood star has high hopes of claiming his first victory since June's US Open.

McIlroy brought his shooting boots to Seoul, landing 12 birdies in the opening 36 holes at Woo Jeong Hills as he followed up on Thursday's 68 with a two-under 69 yesterday to join the front-runners.

Yet the Ulsterman faces stiff competition, especially from his co-leaders, defending champion and 2009 US PGA winner YE Yang, American golf's hottest prospect Rickie Fowler, Aussie Bronson La Casse and 40-year-old Korean Tour veteran Moo Joong-kyung.

Starting on the back nine yesterday, McIlroy went to the turn in level-par after mixing birdies at 12, 14 and 18 with bogeys at 13, 15 and 16. But he came home in 34 thanks to back-to-back birdies at the par-three fourth and par-five fifth.

"It was a good round. I felt it could have been lower, but I played solid golf and holed some nice putts," said McIlroy, third in the 2009 Korea Open and determined to win this weekend after three consecutive top-three finishes on Tour.

"It's a good start to the tournament and I have put myself in a good position going into the weekend," he added.

Yet few in Korea this weekend are more hungry than McIlroy's fellow 22-year-old Fowler, who is desperate for the first win of his two-year pro career.

But Yang will also be a major threat after he carded a round of one-under 70 to remain in the hunt.

"In the morning it was very cold, so on the front nine I did not play well and I was not able to record a lot of birdies," he said. "But on the back nine I felt better, although I regret not being able to score better."

MARTINA GILLEN certainly had a mixed bag during yesterday's first round of the Sicilia Italian Ladies Open. After playing her opening eight holes in six-over, the Dublin native didn't put a foot wrong as she completed the next 12 in three-under for a 75 and a share of 55th pace. Rebecca Codd shot 74 at Il Picciolo and was eight off the pace set by English veteran Trish Johnson (66).



CHALLENGE TOUR

A glittering string of six successive cuts made since the Irish Open came to a shuddering halt for Simon Thornton at the Allianz Open de Lyon. A bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey finish and a second-round 75 at Golf Du Gouverneur left him one outside the mark on one-over. Colm Moriarty (74, +3) and Niall Kearney (75, +4) also missed out. Julien Quesne for France led by one on nine-under after his 66 yesterday.

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