McIlroy setting the pace

Rory McIlroy held the clubhouse lead on six-under par midway through the first round of the Hong Kong Open.

Rory McIlroy held the clubhouse lead on six under par midway through Thursday’s first round of the Hong Kong Open.

The Northern Irishman, who needs victory here at the storied Hong Kong golfcl ub at Fanling this week to keep a;ive his hopes of overhailing Luke Donald in the race to Dubai, posted an excellent opening 64 in windy conditions.

McIlroy picked up six birdies and did not drop a shot to head Paul Lawrie and Oliver Fisher by three strokes, on a day where scoring was proving difficult.

“It was very good, a solid round of golf, I didn’t make a mistake,” McIlroy said.

“Six birdies and no bogeys is always a nice way to start the tournament.

“I played very solid from the first hole, hit two good shots into the 10th and made par there, which was probably the toughest hole we played all day.

“I just gave myself a lot of chances, I think I hit 17 greens and a lot of fairways and I was able to take a few, which was nice.”

Starting on the 10th, McIlroy picked up birdies at the 14th and 16th courtesy of holing mid-range putts to reach the turn in 33 before a sand wedge to inside three feet at the first brought another.

The 22-year-old moved to four under at the next, and although his drive from the fifth tee found the bunker, a superb recovery allowed him to knock in a short putt for his fifth birdie of the day before adding his sixth at the next.

Lawrie and Fisher led the chasing pack, the Scot’s three consecutive birdies from the 11th moving him into contention with three holes of his first round to go.

Fisher sank four birdies to offset a bogey at the first as he also neared the end of his opening 18 holes.

Richie Ramsay, YE Yang, Peter Hanson, Christian Cevaer and Miguel Angel Jiminez were all tied at two under par while defending champion Ian Poulter, playing alongside McIlroy, opened with a one-over 71 as the Englishman carded two bogeys and a birdie.