Wentworth – Rory McIlroy looked to have shrugged off his recent indifferent form as he shot a 67 at the PGA Championship on Thursday to sit two shots behind leader Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark.
The 29-year-old four-time major winner, who is also one adrift of unheralded South African duo Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt, believes he has established a platform to go on and win the title for a second time.
Indeed he might well have been at least tied for second but for a photographer distracting him on the par five 18th when he was taking his second shot and looking for a birdie opportunity.
“If you start to chase it here it can bite you,” said Northern Ireland star McIlroy.
“The course is fairer than it was and I feel comfortable with my game.
“I don’t feel I have to be over aggressive and I think if I play the par fives well for the rest of the week I will be up there come Sunday.”
Bjerregaard looks well set to make the cut in the tournament for the first time after a sparkling round reflecting his recent run of good form which has seen him finish in the top ten in successive events.
“I’ve not had much success around this place but played lovely today,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m just pleased that my form from the last few weeks seems to continue and hopefully I can keep doing some of the same stuff the rest of the week.”
Burmester and Fichardt had both lit up the first part of the day posting six under 66s.
Burmester had a quiet outward nine but then produced four birdies and an eagle in the last seven holes whilst Fichardt didn’t play like a man who had missed the cut at the tournament on the past seven occasions, posting three birdies apiece on the outward and homeward nine.
“Obviously I’m very, very happy,” said Fichardt. “On this golf course, everything’s got to be good.
“So this time of the year, usually for me has never been good but I took quite a few weeks off to prepare for this stretch of events.
“It looks like I made a good choice.”
Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat looked set to be the overnight leader as he lay at seven under approaching the final two holes but disaster struck with him dropping three shots.- ‘Angry, frustrated and disappointed’ –
A more surprising name up near the top is Englishman Richard Bland who had made the cut in just two of his 10 tournaments this season but he recorded a fine five under 67 for his best round since January.
The 45-year-old, who has yet to win a tournament in his 22 years as a professional, came home strongly with three birdies in the last four holes and giving him and his family a welcome reason to smile after a tough start to the year.
“My brother (Heath) got very seriously ill in December and was in a coma for nearly a month after Christmas,” said Bland.
“He’s still recovering, he’s here today which is great, it’s great to see him walking round.”
Some of the higher profile players failed to sparkle primarily Ryder Cup veteran Ian Poulter who early on shared some good natured banter with playing partner and last year’s Race To Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood.
However, the smile had disappeared from Poulter’s face by the time he walked off the 18th at two over par.
“What I really think is not printable for a general audience,” he said.
“All I will say is I am extremely angry, frustrated and disappointed.”
Leading scores at the PGA Championship at Wentworth golf course on Thursday (GBR and IRL unless stated, par-72):
65 – Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN)
66 – Dean Burmester (RSA), Darren Fichardt (RSA)
67 – Richard Bland, Sam Horsfield, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Rory McIlroy
68 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Bradley Dredge, Chris Paisley, Lars Jensen (DEN), Mikko Korhonen (FIN)
69 – Charlie Ford, Branden Grace (RSA), Sebastien Gros (FRA), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (ESP), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Maximilian Kieffer (GER), Shane Lowry, James Morrison, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Richie Ramsay, Robert Rock, Matt Southgate, Hideto Tanihara (JPN), Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR)
70 – Daniel Brooks, Andrew Dodt (AUS), Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox (NZL), Benjamin Hebert (FRA), Martin Kaymer (GER), Alexander Levy (FRA), David Lipsky (USA), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Erik van Rooyen (RSA), Adrien Saddier (FRA), Lee Westwood