Singapore’s weather could have a big part to play in whether Rory McIlroy clinches the European Tour money list title this weekend.
The world No 1 was restricted to just eight holes on the first day of the Barclays Singapore Open, a thunderstorm suspending play in mid-afternoon with him level par and five behind leader Thomas Bjorn.
Last year’s tournament was cut to three rounds because of torrential rain and the shorter the event the harder it will be for McIlroy to climb from his current 38th position into the top three he needs for the Order of Merit crown.
Already the PGA Tour’s leading money-winner this season, the 23-year-old Northern Irishman is trying to achieve what was an unprecedented double until Luke Donald did it last season.
Even missing the halfway cut at Sentosa would still leave him a big favourite, however.
None of his main challengers is in the field, nor will they be in Hong Kong when he defends the title there next week and after that there is only the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to come.
McIlroy skipped last week’s world championship in China to watch girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play tennis in Bulgaria, but the roles are reversed now.
After an opening bogey she saw him hit back with birdies on the fourth and fifth, but then came another dropped stroke at the short eighth just before the sirens sounded because of the approaching dark clouds.
Wozniacki’s fellow Dane Bjorn had long finished his day’s work by then, a five-under-par 66 putting him one in front of England’s Simon Khan, Spaniard Pablo Martin and Thai Chinnarat Phadungsil.
Former world No 3 Paul Casey, back to form after crashing out of the game’s top 100 following his snowboarding accident last Christmas, is only two behind, but three-time winner Adam Scott is alongside McIlroy after a 71, Phil Mickelson was two worse than that and Padraig Harrington ran up a seven in his 74.
Players’ committee chairman Bjorn, 41, won three times last season but has gone 14 months without tasting more success.
He birdied three of his last six holes in the oppressive morning heat and humidity and said: “We get quite used to it, but you’ve just got to pace yourself a little bit and not use too much energy. It’s quite nice for the body to be feeling warm and nice out there.”
Five years ago, Martin became the first amateur to win on the European Tour and he has triumphed twice since then, but at 166th on the money list he needs a top-eight finish to prevent a return to the qualifying school.