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
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
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