Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

McIlroy happy to be level with Lee

Rory McIlroy plays his approach shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the UBS Hong Kong Open at the Hong Kong Golf Club

The battle for European supremacy remained all square after the first day of the UBS Hong Kong Open as unheralded Thai Udorn Duangdecha stole the show.

As Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood and nearest challenger Rory McIlroy opened with four-under-par first rounds, Udorn just missed out on equalling the course record with an eight-under 62 to sit a shot clear of Robert-Jan Derksen.

Wearing trousers which would not have looked out of place on American John Daly, the 39-year-old, who is enjoying his best season on the Asian Tour after doubling his lifetime earnings, carded just two bogeys in deteriorating conditions.

With defending champion Lin Wen-tang, Gregory Bourdy and David Dixon at six under and Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Thongchai Jaidee leading a group a further shot off the pace, Westwood and McIlroy sat tied for 17th in a large contingent four shots off the pace.

With Westwood struggling on the greens on his first visit to Hong Kong, last year's runner-up McIlroy will hope his experience around the tree-lined course will prove crucial to edge ahead on the money list heading into next week's season-ending Dubai World Championship.

“There are 54 holes left so it doesn't matter until Sunday,” said McIlroy. “We're both playing pretty well to be in the positions we're in so I'm not surprised Lee is up there. I've just got to keep doing it. I'm not sure if three more 66s will be good enough so I might need to go a little better over the next three days.”

Westwood's first competitive trip around the Fanling course was certainly a team affair as caddie Billy Foster was called upon on several occasions to lend his advice on the greens.

“I had a lot of chances but found the greens puzzling.”

With much of the focus on Westwood and McIlroy, four-time Q-School graduate Dixon is one of many in the field this week battling to secure their cards with Hong Kong representing a last chance saloon for the likes of Oliver Wilson, Simon Khan and Scott Drummond.

Last year's Saint-Omer Open winner Dixon is currently just inside the 115 full members who will secure their cards for next season while Wilson knows 43rd place is a minimum this week but was down the field after a two-over 72.

Khan needs to finish ninth or better and made an encouraging start as a three-under 67 left him tied for 29th.

Drummond must claim at least seventh with his five-year exemption set to run out and will need to stage his bid from a long way back after opening with a 69, the same score as Darren Clarke.

Graham McDowell is five behind after a 67.

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