PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy 11 shots behind leader Matt Wallace at Wentworth
|BMW PGA Championship, Wentworth: (First round)|
|-7 M Wallace (Eng); -6 H Stenson (Swe), J Rahm (Spa); -5 J Rose (Eng); -4 S Jamieson (Sco), A Pavan (Ita), S Soderberg (Swe), C Bezuidenhout (SA), E Els, (SA) P Casey (Eng), D Willett (Eng), J Luiten (Ned), G Coetzee (S)|
|Selected others: -3 F Molinari (Ita); -2 T Fleetwood (Eng); Par S Lowry (Ire); +1 P Harrington (Ire); +4 R McIlroy (NI)|
Rory McIlroy posted a four-over 76 to finish 11 shots behind leader Matt Wallace at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The Northern Irishman was three under after five holes, but struggled on the back nine to come home in 42.
The round was McIlroy's worst since a 79 in the first round of The Open at Royal Portrush where he missed the cut.
Englishman Wallace had a flawless round of 65 with five birdies and an eagle.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson is one shot behind Wallace after equalling his lowest round at Wentworth, set back to 2001.
The 2016 Open champion carded five birdies and an eagle in his first round 66 to sit second on the leaderboard alongside Spain's Jon Rahm, with England's Justin Rose one shot further back on five-under.
Rose was initially a doubt for the tournament after slipping over and hurting his knee last week, with the 39-year-old withdrawing from Wednesday's Pro-Am as a precaution.
“I had a scan on Monday and didn't know if I'd torn my meniscus or ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] but there was no ligament damage so I feel quite lucky,” said Rose.
Danny Willett hit a bogey-free round to join eight other players on four-under, including fellow Englishman Paul Casey, who won his first European Tour title for five years at the European Open earlier this month.
Defending champion Francesco Molinari is five shots off the lead after he birdied three of the final five holes in his three-under round of 69.
Rory loses his radar
McIlroy could hardly have come into this tournament in better form with a first and a second in his last two events, and he was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year by his peers for his three wins this year, including the $15 million Fed-Ex Cup.
He had shot in the 60s in 17 of his previous 21 rounds, and an eagle at the fourth and birdie at the fifth took him to three under.
But things unravelled spectacularly from there for the player ranked two in the world and highest in the field this week as he dropped three shots in a row from the eighth.
Standing on the 17th tee at one-over, the 30-year-old still had Wentworth's famous two closing par-fives to try to salvage a score in red figures.
Instead he lost balls off the tee at both holes to finish double bogey, bogey and return in 42 for his four-over score.
He faces an uphill battle on Friday to make the cut in what is the first qualifying event towards making the European team for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Fans spur on local lad Wallace
Being part of Padraig Harrington's side is a main goal for Wallace, who missed out on being a captain's pick by Thomas Bjorn for the match at Le Golf National despite three wins in 2018.
Wallace has carried on that form with five top three finishes this year, including at last week's KLM Open in the Netherlands.
A victory has proved elusive for the world number 26 but having grown up in nearby Hillingdon, Wentworth is very much a home tournament and he was inspired by the surroundings.
Five birdies and an eagle at the fourth were the high points, while a fine par save on the last ensured a one-stroke lead going into the second round.
The 29-year-old believes he is starting to reap the benefits from his decision to split with caddie Dave McNeilly last month.
“It was the hardest decision I've had to make in my career. He's done so much for me,” he said.
“Sometimes you need to make those hard decisions to go forward. I felt like it was the right one and it is producing some good stuff at the moment.
“I played the first seven or eight holes as good as I possibly could and showed my all-round game by grinding out the last few holes.
“I'm very happy. Whenever you can get off to a start like that it builds your confidence and just follows on from last week in Holland.”
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