Friday 23 February 2018

McIlroy in strong position

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images

Rory McIlroy's pursuit of a first UBS Hong Kong Open title at the third attempt got off to a strong start as the Irishman shot a seven-under 63 in today's opening round to finish one stroke behind leader Mark Brown.

The 21-year-old, sporting blond highlights in his famous curly locks, collected eight birdies against one bogey to move top of the leaderboard in the morning before being dislodged by a blistering Brown, who shot a blemish-free round of 62.

McIlroy has fallen just short of victory in the last two editions of the tournament, first losing out to Lin Wen-tang in a play-off in 2008 before just missing out to Frenchman Gregory Bourdy a year later.

And the Ulsterman, whose last tournament victory was at the US PGA Tour's Quail Hollow Championship in May, was in confident mood as he bids for a first European Tour win since the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2009.

"I have won already this year so it is not as if I haven't won this year," he said.

"It (a win in Hong Kong) will be big for me.

"I don't think the fact I have not won a European Tour event in 18 months will play a part I think it will be more about me trying to win this tournament. I have wanted to win it for the last couple of years.

"I have to get myself into that position first and if I am I think I will be okay."

McIlroy refuses to cut short his hair in the belief it may affect his form but decided to add highlights, much to the dismay of his girlfriend.

"My girlfriend was very much against it," he added. "But it was just something I want to do.

"When you get back to Northern Ireland on a cold November day you do get quite bored and it is something different I thought I'd try."

India's Jeev Milkha Singh joined McIlroy on seven under thanks to a fine run coming home during which he birdied six of eight holes.

York's Simon Dyson also made a great start to the tournament, with a round of six-under 64 highlighted by a hole-in-one on the par-three, 144-yard 12th.

"It was perfect yardage, no wind, and a perfect wedge straight down the flag," said the 32-year-old.

"It pitched about two feet short and just rolled out and dropped in the hole, so I couldn't have asked for a better start."

Graeme McDowell is looking to finish the European Tour season as strongly as possible in an effort to be crowned Europe's number one and the Northern Irishman made a solid start with a five-under 65 for a share of sixth place.

"I would have taken that score at the start of the day and I am definitely feeling good about my game," said the US Open champion.

"I am feeling very good about my game and I like this golf course too."

Defending champion Bourdy finished the day four under with Ian Poulter a shot further back.

Press Association

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