World No 1 Rory McIlroy admitted his patience was tested by a frustrating opening round in the defence of his BMW PGA Championship title yesterday.
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-10 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 in a round of 71, 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 (yesterday 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 (yesterday).
“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.”
McIlroy was only three off the pace when he finished, but ended the day six off the lead held by former Ryder Cup team-mate Francesco Molinari, who posted a flawless 65.
Molinari, whose brother Edoardo retired with a wrist injury after playing 16 holes in eight over, was joint second in the Spanish Open last week and has an excellent record at Wentworth, having finished seventh, ninth and seventh the last three years.
Molinari enjoyed a two-shot lead over former European No 1 Robert Karlsson, with England’s Chris Wood, Scotland’s Marc Warren, former US PGA champion YE Yang and Spanish pair Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jorge Campillo all four under.
England’s Andrew Johnston won a BMW M4 for a hole-in-one on the 10th.
Sheffield’s Danny Willett, second behind only McIlroy in the Race for Dubai standings, fired a one-under-par 71 with four birdies – three of them in the last five holes – and three bogeys.
Hull’s Richard Finch was one over par after an opening 73, dropped shots at holes one, six and 12 only being partially offset by birdies at the fourth and 14th.
Reigning Yorkshire PGA match play champion Alex Belt, a 29-year-old from Bridlington, was one under after three opening pars and a birdie at the fourth.
But after a regulation three at the fifth he suffered a nightmare five-hole spell in which he dropped six shots.
Another was shipped at the 13th and although he carded a two at the short 14th, he finished with a five-over-par 77.
Belt qualified for the event through the national PGA order of merit.