21 May Karlsson claims slender advantage
Robert Karlsson produced a five under par 67 to hold the clubhouse lead during the opening day of the BMW PGA Championship.
Five years since his last European Tour victory, the 2008 European Tour Number One carded six birdies against a single bogey at Wentworth Club.
By holing from a couple of feet for a gain at the last, Karlsson found himself one ahead of England’s Chris Wood, Korean former US PGA Champion Y E Yang and Spanish pair Jorge Campillo and Miguel Angel Jiménez.
“It was nice to put a good round together,” said Karlsson, who had five top-ten finishes last year but has not finished higher than 26th this term.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit lately so it was nice to keep it going through the whole 18 holes. It was good.
“It’s important around here to keep the ball in play and it became the main focus.
“I’ve had some good runs but I haven’t played 72 holes well, but hopefully this is the start of a good run.
“There are many, many holes to play but I’m happy with today’s round and keep improving on it.”
Wood has played just six events this season after spending five months on the sidelines with a broken bone in his wrist, suffered during a tennis lesson in October.
“It’s a long way for me to fall and it hurt,” joked the 6ft 6in Wood. “I was in a cast for two months and it was a nightmare to miss out on the desert swing this year – particularly as I won in Qatar in 2013 – watching on telly when it’s freezing at home and 30 degrees in Dubai.
“It’s been a struggle and feels like I have been working hard to finish 30th every week. I did finish third in Morocco but I think it was always going to be a bit of a battle after five months.
“But we are coming into the meat of the season now so hopefully I can find my form.”
Wood carded five birdies in his first 14 holes and looked set to take advantage of the closing par fives, but pulled his second shot on the 17th out of bounds and missed from close range on the 18th.
“It’s disappointing to finish six, five but the second shot on the 17th was the only poor one I hit all day,” he added. “I’ve been fighting a left shot for a year now.”
World Number One Rory McIlroy went round in a one under par 71 as he began the defence of The European Tour’s Flagship Event.
McIlroy was among the early starters at Wentworth as he looked to claim a third win in four events, having followed his victory in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play with a third consecutive top-ten finish in the Players Championship and a seven-shot triumph at Quail Hollow on Sunday.
Playing alongside Ryder Cup team-mates Jamie Donaldson and Martin Kaymer, McIlroy got off to a poor start with a bogey on the first, failing to find the green with his approach and missing from 12 feet for par after a poor chip.
To the delight of the large crowds, the 26 year old quickly made amends with a birdie from 15 feet on the second.
A birdie on the par five fourth got McIlroy into red figures, but he promptly gave the shot back with a bogey on the fifth and had to wait until the 12th for his next birdie, courtesy of a superb pitch over a greenside bunker.
Once again McIlroy immediately dropped a shot on the next, but an excellent tee shot to six feet on the 14th – where Jiménez was six inches short of winning a BMW i8 for a hole-in-one – got the Northern Irishman back to one under.
“Physically I am all right – I got back to my hotel at 4:30pm yesterday and did not leave it until 6:30 this morning – but mentally I could feel myself getting a little angry out there,” said McIlroy.
“Acceptance of bad shots is the thing I have been doing so well and I feel like my patience was wearing a bit thin today. I felt I was standing still at one under but looking at the leaderboard it was not so bad.”
Unlike Jiménez, England’s Andrew Johnston did win a BMW M4 for a hole-in-one on the tenth, which he celebrated with a chest-bump with a spectator.