Wilson shines as McIlroy struggles

There was a bit of a Ryder Cup comedown for World No 1 Rory McIlroy at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman returned to solo competition at this week’s European Tour event, just days after helping Europe beat the USA at Gleneagles to retain the Ryder Cup trophy, but could do no better than a one-over-par 73, which left him tied-97th after the completion of the first round.

That leaves him a full nine strokes behind England’s Oliver Wilson, who grabbed a one-shot lead with a superb eight-under-par 64 at the pro-am event.

Wilson and McIlroy both played Carnoustie on Thursday, one of three courses the Dunhill is played on, the others being St Andrews and Kingsbarns.

McIlroy was in top form in his singles victory over Rickie Fowler on Sunday, comfortably beating the American 5&4 after finishing an approximate eight under par.

But he failed to register a single birdie in his opening 12 holes on Thursday, bogeying the sixth to find himself one over at the turn.

When a birdie finally came at the long 14, he quickly gave it back at the short 16th to sign for a 73.

Speaking to Sky Sports, McIlroy admitted he was far from the best.

“A little bit flat, if I’m honest,” he said.

“Obviously with the crowds and everything we were playing in front of last week, to come here it seems a little quiet out there, but it was fun to get to play with my dad.

“I wish I had played a bit better and made a few more birdies but hopefully that will happen over the next couple of days.

“I want to win every week and I want to play well this week and at least give myself a chance. It was not the best score out there for me but we got the hardest course out of the way.”

Leader Wilson, meanwhile, equalled the course record on the way to the first-round lead. It was a welcome return to form for a player who represented Europe in the Ryder Cup in 2008 but has since dropped down to 792nd in the world rankings and these days mostly plies his trade on the Challenge Tour.

“It’s nice to just get out there and take advantage,” said Wilson. “Looking at the forecast, getting Carnoustie out of the way is theoretically the best thing, but you’ve still got to go and play and shoot a good score to take advantage of it, and I’m delighted that I have.

“I’ve been working hard and the game is improving all the time.”

France’s Raphael Jacquelin lies second on seven under, while Padraig Harrington, fresh from his vice-captaincy role at the Ryder Cup, lies in third on six under. Both also played at Carnoustie on day one.

Playing at Kingsbarns, Irishman Shane Lowry equalled his countryman Harrington’s score to join him in third place.