Friday 24 May 2019

Superb McIlroy flying high at Quail Hollow with Power also in the mix

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy may claim to already feel older than 30 but he had a youthful pep back in his step yesterday as he stormed into the clubhouse lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The Holywood star made a superb start as he chases a third career win at Quail Hollow, signing for a five-under opening round that contained six birdies - including five in seven holes, from the 10th to the 16th - and just one dropped shot.

Success in Charlotte, North Carolina would not only be the ideal birthday present for the world number four, who turns 30 tomorrow, but it would also be just the tonic for his Masters hangover.

McIlroy is one shot clear of early leaders Adam Schenk, Martin Laird, Patrick Reed and Nick Taylor, while West Waterford's Seamus Power is tied for 16th, just three shots behind McIlroy, despite carding a double-bogey on the 18th.

Power fell victim to the Green Mile but still made a strong start as he battles for a US PGA spot at Quail Hollow.

The West Waterford man needs a top-three finish to qualify for another Major at Bethpage State Park in two weeks' time.

It's been a hugely positive few weeks for Power, who ended a run of miserable form with back-to-back top-six finishes over the past fortnight, leaping from 189th in the FedEx Cup standings to 117th.

Now he's looking to make another move forward and he got it in Charlotte, despite his late double-bogey.

Scrambling brilliantly, he raced into the early lead when he knocked in six-footers for birdies at the 13th and 14th, then holed a bunker shot for an eagle three at the 15th before he found the stream left of the fairway at the 18th - the third and final hole of the infamous closing Green Mile - and took six.

Pádraig Harrington also finished with a six for a four-over 75 - a frustrating finale after he had come back from four-over after 12 holes to be just two-over playing the last.

On the European Tour, Paul Dunne's run of indifferent form continued when he opened with a four-over 76 in the Volvo China Open in Shenzen.

The Greystones man made five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch on his front nine and hit just eight greens in regulation as he ended the day 11 strokes off the lead.

Fresh from his maiden win in the Trophee Hassan II, Spain's Jorge Campillo opened with a seven-under 65 to share the lead with American David Lipsky and Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland.

Five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey insists he needs to make the most of a good start after he carded a five-under 67 to share the first-round lead with Austria's Martin Wiegele in the Challenge de España.

"I haven't led a Challenge Tour event after round one for a couple of years, so I'm very happy," Hoey said after making five birdies in his last seven holes at Izki Golf in the wine-growing Alava region. "I need to be aggressive going into tomorrow."

Ruaidhri McGee was tied 20th after a 70, but Cormac Sharvin (73), Paul McBride and Robin Dawson (75) and Daniel Peacock (78) all have work to do to make the cut.

Meanwhile, Leona Maguire followed a course-record 64 with a 75 to fall back to tied fifth in the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.

She made a bogey at her eighth hole and a double-bogey six at her 17th and is now four strokes behind Germany's Esther Henseleit (66) and Spain's Nuria Iturrios (68) on five-under.

She said: "I didn't give myself many chances today. On seven, I wanted to hit 7-wood, my caddie wanted me to hit an iron and I hit an iron in the water, which was quite annoying to finish with.

"I didn't give myself enough chances and didn't hole any putts, so no birdies today. I need to play a lot better tomorrow and hit my irons better to give myself some more chances."

Lisa Maguire was tied 49th on seven-over after a 75.

Volvo China Open

Live, Sky Sports, 7.30am

Wells Fargo Championship

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 7.0pm

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