Drysdale dodges damp ending to lead with Lawrie

David Drysdale made the most of some good fortune on the 18th to join Peter Lawrie in a share of the first-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship. Ireland’s Lawrie produced a magnificent bogey-free 66 to start The European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth Club, picking up five shots in his first six holes.

Drysdale had seven birdies and a solitary bogey as the pair edged one ahead of World Number Ten Justin Rose, big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, Wales’ Jamie Donaldson and Swedish pair Niclas Fasth and Richard S Johnson. No fewer than 13 players were tied on four under, amongst them World Number Two and defending champion Luke Donald, Ryder Cup star Francesco Molinari and Ernie Els – a seven times winner at the venue and the man charged with remodelling the course in recent years. Meanwhile Rory McIlroy, playing in Europe as World Number One for the first time, went out of bounds by an inch en route to a two over par 74.

In contrast, Drysdale, 290 places below him in the Official World Golf Ranking, could not believe his luck as his second shot to the final hole went into the water and bounced out again. “You could hit 1,000 balls and never have it happen again,” said the 37 year old, who went on to birdie the par five for a six under par round of 66. “I don’t know what it hit – maybe a fish. It was a massive break. I don’t think I can say what I would have thought if I had taken six or seven there.”

McIlroy’s misfortune came as he ran up a six on the long 12th, the last of four bogeys in five holes and a double bogey at the 16th was to follow. If the 23 year old does fail to make it through to the weekend, Donald will need a top-eight finish to go back to World Number One, but he is aiming much higher than that after a 68. Donald has the chance to join Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players to make a successful defence of The European Tour’s flagship event. He bogeyed the ninth and tenth, like McIlroy, but had already had four birdies and two more were to come in the last three holes. That still made him the highest scorer in his group, though. Compatriot Rose and big-hitting Spaniard Quiros both scored 67. McIlroy was the highest in his three-ball too. Els shot a 68 and US-based Scot Martin Laird, runner-up at Sawgrass, had a 73 on his debut in the championship.

Lee Westwood, whose play-off defeat to Donald 12 months ago cost him the World Number One position, returned a 70 and was delighted with that given he was not at his best, saying: “I didn’t have anywhere near my A-game and not even my B-game really.” The two pacesetters are both outside the game’s top 200, former Open de España champion Lawrie currently standing 212th. He was also the joint leader on the first day in 2006, and did not waste a blistering start in which he eagled the fourth and birdied the second, fifth and sixth. “I played so well in practice that I was kind of very nervous starting out,” he said. “I missed a couple coming in, but 66 can’t be sneezed at. The course is set up great for me – I’m not one of the longest hitters on Tour, but one of the straightest. “You have to very patient and I’m quite a patient person. My wife wouldn’t believe that, but I am on the course!”

Rose achieved his score after fearing he might have to withdraw before the round. “An hour before my tee time, I thought: ‘I can’t play’. I guess it was some sort of vertigo – I was nearly falling over and was sitting in the doctor’s chair for a while. “He gave me an anti-nausea or something and did a good job getting me ready. I felt fine all the way round.” Former Ryder Cup star Fasth had perhaps the most eventful round of the day – he turned in a brilliant 30, bogeyed the next two, picked up shots at the 12th and 14th, then responded to a double bogey at the 16th with an eagle at the remodelled last. “It really was terrific,” he said. “My game has been coming on for a while, I’ve done a lot of swing work and it’s come together over the last month. “I actually played well in my last tournament, as well, and today was better and the scoring started to come along. There was a bit of a mix today – I had double bogeys and I had eagles, but I played very, very well.”