‘Frustrated’ McIlroy faces battle to get back into Hong Kong Open contention

World No 1 nine shots off pace and needs fast start in second round

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 6:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 7:04pm

Reigning UBS Hong Kong Open golf champion Rory McIlroy had a day he’d rather forget as he began his title defence with a three-over-par 73 that left him nine strokes behind the early pacesetter.

The Northern Irishman opened with a bogey five and never really got his game together in a round that had only one real highlight – a birdie four on the par-five third hole at the Hong Kong Golf Club. He will enter the second round with a wealth of work to do if he is to rein in the pace set by first-round leader Javier Colomo of Spain, who hit a six-under 64.

“I just got more and more frustrated as the round went on,” said the 23-year-old McIlroy. “I hit a few decent shots, but didn’t convert any birdie chances and let it get to me.”

Blustery conditions made life tough for those players like McIlroy, who headed out on to the Fanling course in the afternoon, but while the world No 1 admitted he had found it a hard day at the office, he said the game plan was to start afresh in the morning.

“I won’t read much into this,” said McIlroy. “You can’t write me off as scoring was still good for a few people. Hopefully, I can muster up something tomorrow morning. I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. I just need to hole a few putts and get off to a better start.”

One of those lucky few was Colomo, who is enjoying his first year in the region after heading to the Asian Tour’s qualifying school when he lost his card on Europe’s Challenge Tour at the end of last season.

“The first six months was very hard for me and my wife,” said the 28-year-old. “But now we are more happy. I had opportunities for birdies and I had luck on the greens.”

A familiar face among the leading group was two-time Hong Kong Open winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was in the clubhouse and lunching after a five-under-par 65 when conditions took a turn for the worse. That was enough for a share of second with Australia’s Andrew Dodt at the end of the day.

The Spaniard has long been a fan of the tournament and titles in both 2004 and 2007 (plus the celebrations that followed) have simply stoked his passion for everything the city has to offer.

“I like the place,” said the 48-year-old. “It’s an old-fashioned golf course. It’s not very long, but you need to be precise because if you miss the fairways you’re going to have to hit flyers and the greens are fast. But it’s a great golf course and I like it very much.”

World No 13 Matt Kuchar played a solid if unspectacular round to finish on one-under 69 in the American’s first appearance at the event.