Brown stuns the stars, but Rory lurks

Kiwi Mark Brown has stunned the stars, early leader Rory McIlroy included, in the first round of the Hong Kong Open.

New Zealand’s Mark Brown, who has won once on the European Tour and twice on the Asian Tour, has stunned the stars, early leader Rory McIlroy included, in the first round of the Hong Kong Open.

The unheralded Kiwi, currently a lowly 107th in the Race to Dubai standings, shot a spectacular 8-under 62 at the storied Hong Kong Golf club on Thursday to sneak in front of early clubhouse leader Rory McIlroy by a shot.

The 35-year-old surprise package, who came storming down the closing stretch with five birdies that took away some of the glitter of McIlroy’s earlier 63, said: “It was a good day. It came as a bit of a surprise after my form over the last two months Good to get out in the afternoon and post a score like that.

“It’s the sort of course that gives you a lot of chances as long as you hit the fairway.”

McIlroy, still 21 but already the World No 10, is hoping to shrug away a tournament bogey that has seen him finish as the runner-up for the last two years, won’t be too disappointed with his eight-birdie, one bogey start.

This young Northern Irishman, who has all the shots to go low, has certainly opened his account with a strong statement of intent, having teed off in the morning and set the early pace with eight birdies against just one bogey.

The 21-year-old holed a putt from 15 feet on the ninth – his last – to move ahead of the field before Brown made his charge and over took him.

McIlroy’s only blemish came on the par-four sixth when he sent hit his tee shot into the trees, requiring him to play it out left-handed.

“It is a great start to the tournament obviously. Going out and shooting a good first round is a great start,” he said.

“You always feel you can do better. I let one go on the sixth, which was my only bogey of the day.”

KMcIlroy, whose last tournament victory was at the US PGA Tour’s Quail Hollow Championship in May, said his main aim this weekend will be about trying to win a tournament I have wanted to win it for the last couple of years.

“I have to get myself into that position first and if I am I think I will be okay.”

McIlroy refuses to cut short his hair in the belief it may affect his form but decided to add some highlights, much to the dismay of his girlfriend.

“She was very much against it,” he added. “But it was just something I want to do.
“When you get back to Northern Ireland on a cold November day you do get quite bored and it is something different I thought I’d try.”

McIlroy shares second place with Indian star Jeev Milkha Singh, the first Asian golfer ever to win more than a million dollars in a season and twice a winner of the Asian Tour’s order of merit.

A further shot back at 6-under after a 64 is England’s Simon Dyson, who got Thursday’s first round off to a spectacular start with a hole-in-one on the par three 12th to take an early lead in an event he won 10 years ago.

“It was perfect yardage, no wind, and a perfect wedge straight down the flag,” Dyson said. “It pitched about two feet short and just rolled out and dropped in the hole, so I couldn’t have asked for a better start.”

One man, who at the end of the event might well be McIlroy’s toughest antagonist is US Open champion Graeme McDowell who opened with a solid 5-under 65 to be just two behind McIlroy and three off the pace

He could have been a shot closer had he not dented his round with a bogey on the ninth after missing seven-foot putt for par.

South Korea’s 19-year-old Noh Seung-Yul was one of the Tournament king pins who will not have enjoyed his opening round.

His bid to become the youngest golfer in history to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit took a knock when he could only manage a level par 70 after three birdies on the front nine were cancelled out by as many bogeys coming home on the back nine.

A fellow-Korean, Young Nam, produced the days best score by an Asians. He finished in the tie for sixth with a confidence-boosting five-under 65 that was all the more merit-worthy coming as it did in a comeback from a recent bout of spinal meningitis which nearly proved fatal.

Defending champion Gregory Bourdy finished the day four under with Ian Poulter a shot further back.