|First round leaderboard*|
|-7 Bjerregaard (Den); -6 Burmester (SA), Fichardt (SA); -5 Bland (Eng), Fitzpatrick (Eng), McIlroy (NI), Horsfield (Eng); -4 Paisley (Eng), Jensen (Den), Korhonen (Fin), Aphibarnrat (Tha), Dredge (Wal)|
|Selected others: -3 Lowry (Ire), Ramsay (Sco), Rock (Sco); -2 Fleetwood (Eng), Westwood (Eng); -1 Smith (Eng), Fisher (Eng), Dunne (Ire); O’Hara (Sco), Neil (Sco), Warren (Sco), Gallacher (Sco), McDowell (NI); E Casey (Eng), Wood (Eng); +1 Johnston (Eng), Hatton (Eng); +2 Poulter (Eng); +3 Els (SA), Willett (Eng)|
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead after carding a five-under-par 67 in his first round at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard took the clubhouse lead on seven under, with South African’s Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt a shot behind.
World number eight McIlroy is level with England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, Richard Bland and Sam Horsfield.
Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood carded 70s while Ian Poulter went round in 74.
Their English compatriot Chris Paisley in a five-way tie on four under alongside Wales’ Bradley Dredge, while defending champion Alex Noren is on three under with Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Scotland’s Richie Ramsay.
Former Open champion Darren Clarke pulled out of the tournament an hour before he was set to tee off and was replaced by Charlie Ford. Clarke, 49, tweeted to say he picked up an injury in Wednesday’s pro-am.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell is on one under, alongside England’s Andy Sullivan, Jordan Smith and Ross Fisher and Scotland’s Marc Warren, Bradley Neil, Paul O’Hara and Stephen Gallacher, while Paul Casey finished on level par and Andrew Johnston was one over.
Two-time major winner Martin Kaymer is two under, with four-time major champion Ernie Els on three over alongside former Masters winner Danny Willett.
Burmester, 28, holed four birdies and an eagle on the par-four 15th in a stunning back nine as he carded six under alongside Fichardt, who had six birdies in his round.
That was surpassed later in the day by world number 183 Bjerregaard, 26, who hit seven birdies in a flawless round.
South African Branden Grace, who holds the record for the lowest round in a major, was inches away from an albatross on the part five 18th, but rolled in for an eagle to finish on three under.
Play began at 07:00 BST despite overnight thunderstorms and it brightened up after an murky start, but rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday.
McIlroy is out early on Friday morning at 08:00 BST, with Bjerregaard teeing off at 09:05 BST.
McIlroy makes solid start
McIlroy, the 2014 winner, has endured a mixed 2018.
He enjoyed an impressive victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has had three other top-five finishes.
But he has also missed three cuts and failed to complete the career Grand Slam after a disappointing final round in the Masters.
A bogey on the ninth pegged back the 29-year-old to one-under. He picked up the pace after the turn, with birdies on the 10th, 12th, 14th and 16th but was unable to take advantage of the two closing par fives.
“It was nice to get off to a good start,” said the four-time major winner. “I gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well and hit my irons a lot better.”
Bland supported by recovering brother
Bland, 45, who finished with consecutive birdies, revealed his brother, who was in a coma for a month after Christmas, was at Wentworth to watch his round.
“He’s still recovering, but he’s here today which is great,” said Bland. “It’s great to see him walking round. It just makes you think that even though I’ve had a tough time on the course, life isn’t that bad at the end of the day.”
Fitzpatrick, who carded six birdes in his round, said: “It’s always nice to get off to a good start but to birdie three of the first four holes was very pleasing,”
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