BMW PGA Championship 2014: Rory McIlroy tries to relieve the hurt with fine opening round

The world No 10 called off his planned wedding to the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki this week

wentworth

Two eagles and a birdie at the last in a fine 68 offered nil respite from the suffering. Rory McIlroy has given his laptop away and his phone lies silent. There were moments on the course here during the first round of the BMW PGA Championship when all seemed well, particularly the spontaneous celebration of the holed approach that ignited his round, but when the cheers subsided his head filled with hurt and remorse once more.

"At times it was very difficult," he said. "I always knew it would be a difficult week. You would not be a human being if it were not tough, but once I had my mind focused it became a little easier. I'm just trying to put my head into my golf."

When asked why he went public on Wednesday with the news that he had called off his planned wedding to the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, McIlroy said he felt that, since much of his relationship with her had been played out in public, it was the right thing to do. He got that bit right. And it was hard to be critical when he gave a two-handed salute to his first eagle.

How to celebrate the golden shot from the confines of the doghouse? All one can hope is that Caroline's gaze was elsewhere when McIlroy holed his approach at the seventh.

A crunched wedge from 130 yards spun violently off the greenside bank, down the hill and into the hole, triggering the first sighting of a smile since the wedding plans went up in flames.

 

This is not what heartache is supposed to look like, but the galleries could not care less. Thomas Bjorn had lit up the morning with a record-equalling 62 yet, with due respect to the Dane, it was not him the crowd had come to see.

A birdie at the previous hole had been greeted by McIlroy like a goal against a former team, a brief tug of the cap the only sign that the heart might be stirring. What followed put delicacy to the sword. Instinct had taken over, moving him beyond the reach of convention.

After a scratchy, almost disengaged start, McIlroy was back in business at two under par, and taking comfort from his game. This was the medicine he prescribed for himself, a knock with the boys far removed from the maelstrom of domestic strife.

The weather had come out in sympathy with his pre-match mood. One hole into his round the hooter sent the players back into the clubhouse as the second rain interruption of the day forced a 90-minute suspension. McIlroy returned to an immediate bogey at the second and another at the par-three fifth after a wild tee shot.

At least those early troubles were bound to golf. For the bad shot there is often the cure of a good one to follow, as the birdie, eagle response demonstrated. A second eagle courtesy of a drilled 5-iron approach at the par-five 12th nudged him further down the road to recovery and into the top 10.

Earlier in the day was all about Bjorn. Forget early retirement. Go for the career change instead. Golf is fecund ground for old-timers, Bjorn continuing the march of ageing legs with a course-record 62 at the age of 43.

On Sunday Miguel Angel Jimenez became the European Tour's oldest winner at 50, claiming the Spanish Open in Girona. Now Bjorn leads the tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

What are all the whippersnappers up to? Falling apart in the gym is what. Peter Uihlein, who is all of 24, retired after three holes with back trouble. Sergio Garcia withdrew after completing his first round with a bad knee. Mind you, he is 34. Hennie Otto, a vet at 37, threw in the towel after five holes also citing back problems.

Bjorn's refusal to submit to the call of the midlife crisis is a wonder to behold. Golf is a game that ties the best of them in knots yet here he is challenging at the top of the leader board when he might be running down the clock.

In the past 12 months he has posted a dozen top-10 finishes, including two victories, form good enough for him to lead the Race to Dubai in Ryder Cup year. For three days last month he was a serious contender at the Masters before closing in eighth. And here he is again wringing every last drop from the good fortune bestowed by providence.

Though he had shot 62 twice before, this represents a career high. "The best one, absolutely," he agreed. "On this golf course – you shoot great rounds of golf in your career, but to shoot 62 on this golf course, you can't ask for much more.

"When it goes this way, you've just got to be happy when you walk off the golf course. It's a funny game. There's no two ways about it. You wake up on the right side of the bed and you feel great and you walk out and you play great. And then the next day, you walk out and it's completely gone.

"It's been a lot of hard work and determination to not let a golf career fade away. You get to a stage in your life where you've got to make decisions and to stand there and say, 'Well, do I want to do this?' And if you're going to do it, you've got to work hard because everybody else does."

Wentworth: First-round leaders (GB & Irl unless stated; par 72)

62 T Bjorn (Den)

64 S Lowry

65 R C Bello (Sp)

66 G Stal (Fr)

67 A Wall, F Zanotti (Par), J Walters (SA)

68 R McIlroy, T Aiken (SA), D Horsey, M Kaymer (Ger), J Blixt (Swe), H Stenson (Swe)

69 M Siem (Ger), S Dyson, P Larrazabal (Spa), G Havret (Fr), P Harrington

70 (selected) J Rose, I Poulter

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test