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McIlroy scrambles even-par round after finding water twice in France

The world number four has been making some changes to his swing.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

RORY McILROY HAD a stop-start opening to the 100th French Open at Golf National today, as Dane Lucas Bjerregaard fired a hole-in-one and heads into tomorrow’s play with a one-shot lead.

World number four McIlroy managed four birdies against four bogeys in an even-par round of 71 to sit five adrift of the first-round lead.

Englishmen Lee Westwood and Danny Willett, playing together as they did during the final round of the latter’s triumphant Masters campaign, both struggled and have work to do to avoid the cut.

Starting on the 10th, consecutive birdies at 14 and 15 got four-time major champion McIlroy off to a quick start, but he handed them back on the front nine.

Despite not being a spectacular opening to his first visit here since 2010, it was a good return for McIlroy after missing the US Open cut at Oakmont, despite two shots finding the water.

The Northern Irishman was focusing on getting his swing in good technical order, with some doubts creeping in during the round.

“Conditions were pretty tricky with the wind up and there were a couple of mistakes and loose shots in there,” he said.

“I’ve got about four or five swing thoughts out there at the minute, so that’s why I’m sort of happy with 71 with how much I’m focusing on my golf swing and my technique.”

Bjerregaard’s magical moment came on the par-three second hole, and he backed it up with five further birdies.

The 24-year-old had to overcome the nuisance of losing his clubs on the flight to France, although will probably consider keeping his new ones after a sparkling five-under-par 66.

He holds a narrow advantage over Belgian Thomas Pieters, defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, Spain’s Adrian Otaegui and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.

World number nine Willett only had one birdie all day, although he did play the back nine in one-under-par to sign for a 73.

Westwood failed to bounce back from his collapse on the Sunday of the US Open less than a fortnight ago, as the 43-year-old fell away after an opening birdie to sit on three-over-par.

Westwood is just outside the automatic places for Europe’s Ryder Cup team, so a high finish in this tournament that offers double points for the European and world lists would help captain Darren Clarke avoid a difficult decision with his wildcard picks.

McIlroy had the best round of the six Irish competing in the difficult French conditions. Padraig Harrington (+2), Darren Clarke (+3), Paul Dunne (+6), Michael Hoey (+6) and Graeme McDowell (+9) will be hoping to make up some ground on the leaders tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Shane Lowry will begin the defence of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title in Akron, Ohio this evening.

© AFP 2016 

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