JUSTIN ROSE, twice a runner-up in the BMW PGA Championship, today wasted little time in getting to the top of the leaderboard as the European Tour's flagship event got underway at Wentworth.
Rose went to the turn in 32 to join Finland's Mikko Ilonen on three under-par, with Ireland's Shane Lowry and Paul McGinley one-under after 15 holes. Darren Clarke was one-under after 14 holes.
A bogey on the third for Rose was followed by birdies at the fourth and fifth and two more birdies on the eighth and ninth took Rose alongside former British amateur champion Ilonen, who picked up shots at the fourth, sixth and ninth.
But a first bogey of the day on the 16th dropped him back to four-under and one ahead of McIlroy, who had birdied the par-five 12th after hitting his second shot just through the green and chipping to three feet. Rose was a shot further back after a clumsy chip on the 13th cost him a bogey five.
A chilly morning saw Rory McIlroy wearing thick black gloves between shots as he teed off alongside Ryder Cup team-mates Graeme McDowell and Paul Lawrie, with the world No 2 missing two good birdie chances on the opening two holes.
McIlroy, still seeking a first win of 2013 after five victories around the world last season, birdied the third and after a bogey on the fifth picked up shots on the sixth and ninth to be two-under. He was two-under after 11 holes.
McDowell – back on good terms with McIlroy – had carded nine straight pars to remain level, while Lawrie was one over after two bogeys and one birdie.
Ilonen went one shot ahead and was four under after 16 holes. He briefly moved two clear of the field with birdies at the 14th and 15th.