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McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke labour at PGA as Lowry leads Irish challenge

Four bogeys on the back nine blighted the world number two’s opening round.

Rory McIlroy watches an iron approach head towards the green.
Rory McIlroy watches an iron approach head towards the green.
Image: EMPICS Sport.

THE NORTHERN IRISH challenge at the PGA Championship at Wentworth has faltered badly on the opening day.

The Ulster trio of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke have all posted rounds of 74 to finish day one on +2. Fellow Ulsterman Gareth Maybin is languishing on +5.

The situation is rosier for Shane Lowry, currently tied for fifth on -2, and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley shot a 71 to lie just outside the top 10 on -1. Mikko Ilonen of Finland has set the early pace with a superb round of 67 to sit one shot clear of Scott Henry on -5.

McIlroy was just a shot behind Illonen at one stage of his round before an implosion on the back nine saw him plummet down the leaderboard. The world number two was -4 after 12 holes but recorded five bogeys in the final six holes.

McDowell, who won the Volvo Matchplay event in Bulgaria on Sunday, was even par as he teed off at the 539-yard par 5 final hole. A disastrous double bogey saw the Portrush native slip to +2. Keeping the dup company is former British Open champion Darren Clarke. He was -1 after 15 but finished double bogey, bogey, par.

Lowry’s -2 was patchy but contained moments of class as he etched out three bogeys with five birdies, including one at seven after a fine iron approach. Dubliner McGinley hit 17 pars and jotted his name down for a solitary birdie on the sixth. David Higgins of Waterville is currently level par.

Sergio Garcia was not letting his ill-judged fried chicken comments, about Tiger Woods, affect his game as he opened his first round with pars. Out of the 12 European Ryder Cup players that triumphed in America last year, Martin Kaymer, who sunk the winning putt, is best placed on -2.

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Patrick McCarry

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