Rory McIlroy got his 2017 campaign off to a great start at the BMW SA Open as the World Number Two carded a five under par 67 to lie just one shot behind early pace-setters Keith Horne and Trevor Fisher Jnr at the Glendower Golf Club in the city of Ekurhuleni, South Africa.
In town as a favour to his great friend and tournament host Ernie Els, the Irishman did not disappoint the huge and expectant crowd which lined the fairways of Glendower to see one of golf’s biggest stars.
Playing with mostly new equipment in his bag, McIlroy made a solid start of four pars before flicking the switch and making four consecutive birdies to charge up the leaderboard. He made the turn in 32 and picked up another birdie before dropping two shots in a row on the back nine.
The 27 year old hit back in typical style though, almost holing in one to pick up an easy birdie on the par three sixth before he cancelled out his other dropped shot with another birdie on the eighth to sign for a 67.
Home favourites Horne and Fisher Jnr went one better to lead on six under, while McIlroy was joined by last year’s European Challenge Tour Number One Jordan L Smith as well as the South African trio of Thomas Aiken, Dean Burmester and Jbe Kruger.
Former Ryder Cup Captains Darren Clarke and Nick Faldo produced some of their old magic to delight the home crowds with a pair of two under par 70s and stay very much in touch with the leaders.
Rory McIlroy expressed satisfaction with his first round: “That was good for the first competitive round of 2017. I felt like I gave myself a lot of chances on our front nine; the back nine. You know, that four-under could have been probably six or seven but look, it was a really good way to start. It was a bit scrappy in places around the last few holes but five-under-par is a good way to start to start this tournament. That was the first round with a lot of new equipment and it felt pretty good. Obviously I’ll be looking to get more comfortable with the clubs and when that happens I’d expect to be even more dialled in.”
Select first round scores:
66 K Horne (RSA); T Fisher Jnr (RSA).
67 D Burmester (RSA); J Smith (Eng); R McIlroy; T Aiken (RSA); J Kruger (RSA).
68 D Fichardt (RSA); A Björk (Swe); M Foster (Eng); J Fahrbring (Swe); O Fisher (Eng).
69 D Brooks (Eng); J Walters (RSA); U Van Den Berg (RSA); R Johnson (Swe); C Nel (RSA); G Storm (Eng); S Tiley (Eng); J Stalter (Fra); S Norris (RSA); J Winther (Den); L Canter (Eng); B Rumford (Aus); S Soderberg (Swe); S Dyson (Eng).
70 N Fasth (Swe); J Morrison (Eng); N Schietekat (RSA); C Bezuidenhout (RSA); J Kamte (RSA); M Hollick (RSA); J Harding (RSA); P Uihlein (USA); G Coetzee (RSA); R Langasque (Fra); S Faldo (Eng); D Clarke; D Drysdale (Sco); T Moore (RSA); P Waring (Eng); J Hugo (RSA).
71 A Knappe (Ger); P Maddy (Eng); G Mulroy (RSA); C Hanson (Eng); D Frittelli (RSA); A Otaegui (Esp); D Van Der Walt (RSA); E Molinari (Ita); B Ritthammer (Ger); J Van Zyl (RSA); K McClatchie (am) (RSA).