PGA Championship: Matt Wallace takes first-day lead as Rory McIlroy struggles

first_imgnews The BMW PGA Championship has been good to English golfers since the arrival of the current sponsors in 2005. David Howell, Paul Casey, Simon Khan, Luke Donald – twice – and Chris Wood have all prevailed at Wentworth. Matt Wallace’s 65 to open this staging of the European Tour’s flagship event demonstrated a willingness to keep a red and white flag at the leaderboard’s summit. Recent history is in his favour.Wallace reached seven under par without a bogey, such was the level of his play in sun-kissed Surrey. In the bigger picture, victory here would probably place Wallace back at the top of the European Tour’s order of merit; he began this week in fourth. “This is the tour’s biggest event and my home event now,” Wallace said. “I’ve played the course plenty of times before coming into this week, and I feel comfortable. It always helps when your game’s in shape as well. I played the first seven or eight holes as good as I possibly could and showed my all‑round game by grinding out the last few holes.”If Wallace’s prominence is not really a surprise, the same cannot be said for Henrik Stenson. The Swede has been out of sorts for much of this season, with his decision not to take part in the FedEx Cup play-off series in the US – as he was eligible to do – thought to be a sign of confidence loss. He is one shot adrift of Wallace after 18 holes, a matter due in no small part to a wonderful eagle at the last.“I had played 18 tournaments up until the WGC in Memphis at the end of July,” Stenson said. “My energy levels were quite low. I promised I would play in Sweden and I didn’t fancy going back and forth, back and forth. So I took some time off and hopefully we can finish off the year strongly.“Looking back at my career, I don’t think I’ve been having too many wins and too many really good finishes when I haven’t started with a decent round or better. It sets up the week nicely and I just hope I can continue with that. I’ve got a few things that I’m working on in terms of processes, that is all I can control, and hopefully we keep on scoring well at the same time.”Jon Rahm matched Stenson’s score courtesy of back-to-back nines of 33. “I love these types of golf courses, I grew up playing on so many of them in Spain,” he said. Casey was also six under par when playing the 18th but made a double bogey. Justin Rose’s 67 was impressive given the former world No 1 had been a doubt even to participate because of a knee problem. Beware the injured golfer, and all that.Viktor Hovland has arrived back in Europe to something of a fanfare after some stirring performances on the PGA Tour and opened promisingly courtesy of a 69. “It’s been a blast,” was the Norwegian’s assessment of a rare visit to England.Rory McIlroy was chugging along perfectly nicely when three under par after five holes. Even bogeys at the 8th and 9th did not seem a major problem as the Northern Irishman reached the turn in red numbers. McIlroy’s closing holes, though, were a disaster: he dropped a shot at the 15th before finishing seven-six (double bogey, bogey), as a round that started with such promise resulted in 76 shots. McIlroy’s ambition for Friday is obvious: just to survive for the weekend. Since you’re here… Share on Facebook … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Messenger Share on Pinterest Golf Read morecenter_img Share on LinkedIn Rory McIlroy believes golf can learn from tennis to eradicate slow play Share on Twitter Topics Share via Email Share on WhatsApp Support The Guardian Reuse this contentlast_img