McIlroy gets off to flier in Shanghai
The world number six signs for a 65 to lead by two shots after the opening round
Rory McIlroy gave the clearest indication yet that he is getting back to his best form with a majestic seven under par opening round of 65 in the WGC-HSBC Champions as he established a two shot lead in Shanghai.
The former World No.1 stated prior to the tournament that he was in the mood to clinch his first victory of 2013, and he produced a performance to back up those feelings at Sheshan International Golf Club. Graeme McDowell is four behind after a fine 69.
McIlroy carded seven birdies and just the single bogey on the 11th hole – his second of the day after starting on the tenth tee – to lead Wales’ Jamie Donaldson and last week’s BMW Masters champion Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño.
It was a timely display by the Northern Irishman, who started the event in 62nd place on The Race to Dubai and in need of a good performance to break into the top 60 in order to secure his spot in the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in a fortnight.
“It felt good to be out there and be in control of my golf ball. I gave myself a lot of looks for birdies. It’s a great start, but it’s only 18 holes. It’s only one round of golf, but it’s definitely the way I wanted, and needed, to start this week, keeping in mind that I obviously want to play myself into Dubai and try to pick up my first win of the season, as well. “
Starting from the tenth with a birdie, McIlroy gave the shot straight back at the next but also picked up shots at the 12th, 14th and 16th.
A long birdie putt was left inches short on the par three 17th hole, but McIlroy made no such mistake from four feet on the par five 18th to reach the turn in 32, before another birdie on the first took the two-time Major champion into a share of the lead on five under.
McIlroy moved into the outright lead with a birdie on the par five second and added another birdie when he holed from seven feet for a birdie on the par five eighth to move clear at the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s one of the best rounds I’ve played this season,” he said. “I shot 64 at Boston, so that was a good round of golf. But this is probably better just because it was a little trickier conditions. There was a bit of breeze and you’ve got to play good golf to shoot seven under around this place.”
Spaniard Fernandez-Castaño, targeting back-to-back wins in Shanghai, birdied four holes in a row on his back nine to card a five under par 67, while Welshman Donaldson’s round included a 22ft putt for eagle on the 16th hole.
A shot further back on four under par is US Open champion Justin Rose, who recovered from a double bogey on his second hole of the day, former US Masters champion Bubba Watson and two players making their debut in a World Golf Championships event, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and American Jordan Spieth.
British Open winner Phil Mickelson briefly accompanied McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard after a flawless opening 16 holes. But the American dropped five shots in his last two holes, putting it in the water twice on the par five eighth en route to a quadruple bogey nine, then finishing his round with a bogey to sign for a one under par 71 and a share of 28th position, the same as defending champion Ian Poulter.
65 R McIlroy (Nir) ,
67 J Donaldson (Wal) , G Fdez-Castaño (Esp) ,
68 J Spieth (USA) , J Rose (Eng) , B Watson (USA) , T Fleetwood (Eng) ,
69 P Casey (Eng) , K Aphibarnrat (Tha) , G Bhullar (Ind) , S Hend (Aus) , E Els (RSA) , D Johnson (USA) , G McDowell (Nir) ,
70 R Moore (USA) , D Fichardt (RSA) , J Blixt (Swe) , B Weekley (USA) , L Donald (Eng) , S Garcia (Esp) , L Oosthuizen (RSA) , K Streelman (USA) , M Kaymer (Ger) , P Hanson (Swe) , H Wen-Yi (Chn) , K Duke (USA) , J Jeong (Kor) ,
72 M Ilonen (Fin) , J Van Zyl (RSA) , D Points (USA) , M Brown (Nzl) , J Merrick (USA) , M Hendry (Nzl) , M Manassero (Ita) , L Wen-Chong (Chn) , F Molinari (Ita) , D Howell (Eng) , B Haas (USA) , S Piercy (USA) , L Hao-Tong (Chn) ,
75 G Coetzee (RSA) , H Fujita (Jpn) , M Jiménez (Esp) , G Bourdy (Fra) , B Rumford (Aus) , N Watney (USA) ,
76 H Mu (Chn) , T Jaidee (Tha) ,
77 B Grace (RSA) , B Van Pelt (USA) , D Popovic (Aus) ,
81 R Jacquelin (Fra) , R Ishikawa (Jpn) , B Seuk-Hyun (Kor) ,
83 H Ming-Jie (Chn)