Majestic Molinari dominates first day at Wentworth

Francesco Molinari’s excellent recent form showed no sign of abating as the Italian carded a seven under par 65 to lead after the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship.

Molinari, whose brother Edoardo retired with a wrist injury, was joint second in the Open de España last week and has an excellent record at Wentworth Club, having finished seventh, ninth and seventh the last three years.

“I think I missed one green on the third and chipped up to two feet, so it was as stress-free as it could be round here,” said the 32 year old, who finished sixth in his other European Tour start of 2015.

“I love this place and it’s good to be back. It rewards accuracy, which suits my game.”

A win on Sunday could lift Molinari from 66th in the Official World Golf Ranking to inside the top 30, securing his place in the US Open and Open Championship.

“I missed the Masters this year after 22 Majors in a row and it was not a nice feeling, so I hope I will be back soon,” he added.

Molinari enjoyed a two-shot lead over former European Number One Robert Karlsson, with England’s Chris Wood, Scotland’s Marc Warren, former US PGA Champion YE Yang and Spanish pair Miguel Angel Jimnez and Jorge Campillo all four under.

Karlsson has suffered a number of problems with form and fitness since topping the Order of Merit in 2008.

The 45 year old Swede has happier memories of Wentworth, shooting a course-record 62 in the third round in 2010 after having to hire a private jet to get back to London on Saturday morning because he had flown home to Monaco the day before thinking he had missed the cut.

Wood has played just six events this season after spending five months on the sidelines with a broken bone in his wrist, suffered when he fell during a tennis lesson in October.

“It’s a long way for me to fall and it hurt,” he joked. “It was misdiagnosed as bone bruising for a month and then I was in a cast for two months at home.

“It was a nightmare because I fell out of the top 60 on The Race to Dubai and plummeted down the world rankings. 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.”

England’s Andrew Johnston won a BMW M4 for a hole-in-one on the tenth, which he marked with an exuberant chest-bump celebration with a friend in the gallery.

“It took one bounce and hit the flag and went straight in. It just happened so quick, so I didn’t really know what to do,” Johnston said after his 77. “I just saw him. He looked and I was like, ‘All right, now is the time to go’.”

World Number One Rory McIlroy admitted his patience was tested by an opening round of 71.

McIlroy was among the early starters 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.

But the 26 year old struggled to take advantage of perfect conditions as he recorded four birdies and three bogeys, conceding afterwards that mental fatigue was a factor in the fourth of five tournaments in succession.

“Physically I am all right – I got back to my hotel at 4:30pm (on Wednesday) and did not leave it until 6:30 this morning – but mentally I could feel myself getting a little angry out there,” McIlroy said.

“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 just need to stay in control of my emotions because I feel like that’s one of the things – if I’m a little tired or a little fatigued mentally, I’ll start to be hard on myself and start to get down on myself.

“I played okay. There weren’t really any aspects of my game I thought were really good, but at the same time I don’t feel any aspect of my game was really off.”