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McIlroy fires from the off to work his way into the mix in Turkey

Shane Lowry also made a steady start to the final stretch of the season.

McIlroy is back from injury and raring to go.
McIlroy is back from injury and raring to go.
Image: Eric Risberg

RORY MCILROY’S QUEST to end an otherwise frustrating season on a high started in encouraging fashion on Thursday as he worked his way into contention at the Turkish Open.

The 26-year-old returns to the European Tour this week for the first event of the Final Series but South African Zaco van Zyl stole the show with an incredible round of 61.

Van Zyl raced into a three shot lead after carding nine birdies and an eagle at The Mongtomerie Maxx Royal course.

His eleven-under par round bettered the previous record of 62 held by Raphaël Jacquelin, although it won’t stand as heavy overnight rain meant preferred lies were in play.

Lee Westwood, who carded eight birdies of his own, sits alone in second with McIlroy six off the summit.

The Northern Irishman is currently leading the Race to Dubai with earnings of just over €3 million but is yet to win a tournament since making his comeback from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Should McIlroy win The Race to Dubai, it will be the third time in four years that he has finished top of the pile and a fifth top two finish in the last seven seasons

The former world number got himself up and running by chipping in on the 11th and then pared the next seven holes to reach the turn in 36. Birdies on the first, third, fourth and seventh followed to finish on five-under par.

McIlroy’s closest challenger on the Race to Dubai standings is Danny Willet but Shane Lowry also has a chance of dethroning the four-time Major winner with a successful couple of weeks.

Lowry carded six birdies to card a four-under par round of 68. The highlight of his day came on the par three second:

Lowry

Speaking to Sky Sports after his round, McIlroy said: ”I felt that my game together on the back nine, which was our front nine on the course.

“I was trying to find my rhythm a little bit over the first few holes and then made a good par save on 18, which gave me a lot of momentum going on to the front nine.

“I’ve been hitting the ball well in practice and putting a bit better, so it was just a matter of trying to take what I’ve been seeing in practice out on the course and for the most part I did that.

“Coming in to these three weeks, the main thing was to win the Race to Dubai,” McIlroy added. “I’d like to win a tournament first and foremost, try and get another win under my belt this year, and it would be nice to go to Dubai with another win.

“I feel like I’ve set myself up for a good three days to have a run at it this week.”

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Ryan Bailey

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