McIlroy finds form to surge clear of WGC field

Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:19am EDT
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By Andrew Both

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy enjoyed one of his best rounds of a disappointing season to storm into a two-shot lead over a star-studded field at the $8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions tournament on Thursday.

Displaying a deft short game with a new lob wedge, McIlroy reeled off eight birdies en route to a first round seven-under-par 65 at the World Golf Championship event in Sheshan.

Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Welshman Jamie Donaldson are tied for second on five-under, one ahead of a group of four players that includes American prospect Jordan Spieth and Briton Justin Rose.

After cruising along nicely for 16 holes, British Open champion and two-time winner of this event Phil Mickelson looked primed to challenge McIlroy's lead until he suffered a dramatic late-round meltdown to fall off the pace.

The left-hander dropped four strokes at the par-five eighth, his 17th, where he twice found the pond in front of the green, and also dropped a shot at the ninth after pulling his second into the water for a one-under 71.

McIlroy, on the other hand, had no such misadventures with his only dropped shot coming on the 11th hole, his second of the round.

"It's only one round but it's definitely the way I wanted and needed to start this week," said the two-time major champion, who was ranked number one in the world as recently as March but has yet to record a victory this season.

However, refreshed after a recent four-week break and armed with a new driver and new ball, the world number six looked to have rediscovered the swagger that carried him to order of merit titles on the European and PGA Tours a year ago.   Continued...

Golfer Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland attends a photo call for the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament on the Bund in Shanghai October 29, 2013. REUTER/Aly Song