Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Rory McIlroy using PGA as escape route

Mcilroy wants to forget drama and get back to basics

Keeping focus: Rory McIlroy has been distracted by his split from Caroline Wozniacki but yesterday tries to concentrate at Wentworth
Leader Thomas Bjorn salutes the crowd

Rory McIlroy revealed he has not turned on his phone and has even given away his laptop as he tries to cope with the aftermath of his split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki.

McIlroy announced on Wednesday that he had called off his planned November wedding to former world number one tennis player Wozniacki, even though invitations had just been sent out.

The 25-year-old admitted he would find it very difficult to concentrate on his golf in the BMW PGA Championship this week, but did a commendable job with a first round of 68 at Wentworth.

"At times it was very difficult but I just tried to bury my head in my golf and I did a pretty good job of it," McIlroy said. "It's going to be a very tough week and I am just trying to put my head fully into my golf.

"I think it's only natural, I don't think you would be human if it wasn't tough, especially when it's a little slow out there and you are waiting between shots.

"I haven't turned on my phone for a few days and I've given my laptop away, I'm sort of living like I'm in the '70s. It's tough but it's the way it is and people who have come up to me have been very supportive."

Asked why he chose to issue a statement and answer questions in a press conference on Wednesday, McIlroy added: "It was played out in the media so much it was the best way to do it."

McIlroy's task was made harder by two weather delays caused by the threat of lightning, the second of which came after he had played just one hole.

But the two-time major winner went on to card three birdies and two eagles in his 68, holing a wedge from 130 yards on the seventh and missing out on an albatross on the 12th by a matter of inches following a five-iron approach from 203 yards.

"It's always nice to make two eagles in one round, I can't remember the last time I did that," McIlroy added. "I've never had an albatross, that's one thing my dad still has over me.

"Four under has got me in the top 10 (joint eighth) which is a pretty rare position for me in this tournament. A 68 is probably my best round on this course for a while (he also shot 68 in the third round in 2011).

"I would just be delighted to make it to the weekend because I haven't done that the last two years."

Local knowledge and a fierce determination not to drift into obscurity paid massive dividends for former Wentworth resident Thomas Bjorn on a weather-affected opening day of the BMW PGA Championship.

Bjorn hailed the best round of his entire career after carding a brilliant 62, a round completed just moments before the first of two suspensions of play due to the threat of lightning which left 33 players unable to complete their rounds.

"I was signing my scorecard when the siren went and Stephen Gallacher looked at me and said, 'You're not having a very bad day, are you?"' Bjorn said. "We could kind of feel there was something going on in the weather, so it was nice to get in."

At 10 under par, Bjorn held a two-shot lead over Irishman Shane Lowry, with Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello on seven under and the likes of Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer joining McIlroy all four under.

Stenson could need as little as a top-30 finish this week to replace Adam Scott as world number one, the Australian beginning the Crowne Plaza Invitational with a one-over-par 71.

Bjorn missed the cut in last week's Spanish Open and feared the worst in a tournament where he has produced just one top-10 finish – in 1998 – in 16 previous appearances.

"You shoot great rounds in your career but to shoot 62 on this course, you can't ask for more," said Bjorn, who went on to win the European Masters in 2011 the last time he shot 62 on the European Tour.

"I don't really know where to start. Last week was awful and I was starting to feel a little frustrated with things. Practice this week I was not good either.

"To step out on this course of all courses and play like I did today was surprising. Although I lived here for nine years it's not a place where I think it's going to be a great week, but I have to stick my head down now and focus on the rest of the week."

Bjorn, who looks set to qualify for his first Ryder Cup appearance since 2002, birdied the second, fourth and seventh to reach the turn in 32 before a superb scoring burst on the back nine.

Bjorn is currently third in the Ryder Cup qualifying race but added: "I still think I need to do a lot more. There's a lot of guys playing great golf at the moment and over the last few weeks a few names are all starting to come back into the frame."

Lowry's round was twice disrupted by the bad weather, but the 27-year-old – who won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 – was not about to say a bad word about the tournament.

"I love it around here," said Lowry, who was fourth in 2011 and 12th last year. "It's a great event. It's a great golf course.

"I've been struggling and my best finish this season was last week, tied 15th in the Spanish Open. I've missed a few cuts and haven't really been putting that well but I managed to find something at home a couple of weeks ago and hopefully can keep it going.

"I went back to an old putter that I used years ago and it brought back good memories, so maybe."

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