McIlroy sets Hong Kong pace
Hong Kong - World number two Rory McIlroy was the joint leader after the first round of the $2.75 million UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday where the Northern Irishman shot an impressive six-under-par 64.
The US Open champion was joined by Alvaro Quiros and David Horsey after the Spaniard Quiros chipped in on the 18th and the English golfer hit a stunning approach to leave himself a tap-in as the light began to fade.
McIlroy went out early in the morning and tamed the blustery conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club with a bogey-free round in what he described as his best-ever over the course.
"It's my best here for sure," said the 22-year-old. "I handled the wind pretty well today and I think I have shot a 63 here once but this was better than that given the conditions."
McIlroy, who was a runner-up in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009 was quick to keep his feet on the ground however.
"There's still a long way to go in this tournament," he said. "I've led a lot of tournaments from the first day, and I've won a couple of them, but I realize more than anyone, there is a long way to go - 54 holes. I'll have to play very, very well to pick up this trophy."
Two birdies on his first nine and four on the back did it for McIlroy, who played in a group that included reigning Hong Kong champion Ian Poulter, who struggled on the greens on his way to a plus-one 71.
The Englishman couldn't buy a putt all round and left vowing to put in the hours on the practice green in the afternoon.
"I'm obviously disappointed, the wind was tricky and I played nicely but didn't hole a putt out there," said Poulter. "I've got work to do tomorrow and this golf course will play tougher as it goes."
Quiros, known for his long drives, had his short game to thank for joining McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard, while Horsey's nine-iron to within two feet on the last left him with a simple birdie putt for a share of the lead.
Quiros, 28, recovered from an errant approach shot on the par four last with a chip-in for birdie.
It was the second chip-in of the day for Quiros - after he had performed the same trick for an eagle on the par-five 12th.
"In the end we have been lucky twice," he said. "Because we took a look at the compass in the yardage book and we were right. So I think you have to be lucky to shoot low under these conditions, under these windy conditions."
Horsey, 26, said: "I've been hitting the ball nicely but scores have not been quite coming in so hopefully that can change.
"I did some good work on the range yesterday so yeah I am pretty pleased with my start," the two-time European Tour winner added.
Also squarely in contention after day one was double Hong Kong Open winner Miguel Angel Jimenez.
The 47-year-old Spaniard, who lifted the title in 2004 and 2007, shot a five-under-par 65, one shot behind the leaders.
"With this sort of wind it was very difficult, Jimenez said. "In the afternoon the gusty wind was hard but I am very pleased. Five-under par is good anywhere that you play."
There was little joy however for world number 17 Justin Rose in what is his first visit to the Hong Kong event, which is co-sanctioned by both the European and Asian Tours and acts as the penultimate date on the calendars of both.
A double bogey six on the eighth hole seemed to dampen his spirits and he never really recovered on his way to a four-over 74 that has left the Englishman with a lot of work to do.
"I got on the wrong side of a lot of pins and I thought I made a lot of wrong decisions today," said the 31-year-old. "Getting off to a bad start made it a long hard day."
One group failed to finish their round because of bad light.Leading scores after the first round of the $2.75 million UBS Hong Kong Open at par-70 Fanling on Thursday:
64 - Rory McIlroy (NIR), Alvaro Quiros (ESP), David Horsey (ENG)
65 - Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP)
66 - Darren Beck (AUS), Gareth Maybin (NIR)
67 - Marcus Fraser (AUS)
68 - Peter Hanson (SWE), Oliver Fisher (ENG), Richie Ramsay (SCO), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Y.E. Yang (KOR), Juvic Pagunsan (PHI), Kunal Bhasin (AUS)
69 - Scott Barr (AUS), Jason Hak (HKG), Paul Lawrie (SCO), Sujjan Singh (IND), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Christian Cevaer (FRA), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Thaworn Wiratchant (THA), David Howell (ENG), Stephen Gallacher (SCO), Panupol Pittayarat (THA), Berry Henson (USA), Anirban Lahiri (IND)Selected others:
70 - Padraig Harrington (IRE)
71 - Ian Poulter (ENG), Liang Wenchong (CHN)
74 - John Daly (USA), Justin Rose (ENG)
For gorgeous gifts at gorgeous prices, click here for the ultimate Christmas gift guide from Clicks.