McIlroy takes share of Hong Kong lead
Spain's Alvaro Quiros and British pair Rory McIlroy and David Horsey each fired six-under par 64s to grab a share of the lead after the opening round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday.
Starting his round on the 10th, Northern Ireland's world number two McIlroy made good use of an early tee off and recorded four birdies in a six-hole stretch on his back nine to set the pace with a new record on the revamped suburban par-70 Fanling layout.
The U.S. Open champion was later joined by Englishman Horsey and Quiros, who birdied the 11th and eagled the 12th before chipping-in at the last, one stroke clear of the field at the $2.75 million co-sanctioned event.
McIlroy has now recorded rounds of 64 on three occasions at the tournament in 15 trips around the tight, tree-lined course as well as shooting a 63 in the opening round last year on his way to a sixth-place finish behind winner Ian Poulter.
"It was a good, very good solid round of golf when I didn't make a mistake," McIlroy said. "Six birdies and no bogeys is always a nice way to start the tournament."
McIlroy arrived in Hong Kong looking to make amends for two prior runner-up finishes in the event as well as a handful of near misses in various tournaments either side of his stunning victory at Congressional in June.
"I felt this year that I've definitely let two or three tournaments slip away from me," he said.
"That's something I'm trying to work on so that doesn't happen. But as long as I get myself in these positions and start winning more regularly, I think it becomes a habit and hopefully I'll do it more often."
The 26-year-old Horsey was one of McIlroy's team mates in the losing Great Britain & Ireland 2007 Walker Cup side, and the 64 is his lowest score by two strokes in seven Hong Kong Open rounds.
Horsey shot a bogey-free round as he seeks a second European Tour victory of the year after capturing the Hassan II Golf Trophy in Morocco in April but his first target is to improve his current position of 42nd in the Race to Dubai standings.
Ending the season inside the top-30 would gain automatic entry to next season's British Open, while a higher finish would allow him to line up alongside McIlroy when he defends his U.S. Open crown.
"I would love to be exempt next year into The Open and hopefully with a good result this week and next week in Dubai, I can finish top-15 and that would mean a start in the U.S. Open next year," he told Reuters.
"They are two big doors that would open automatically for me and then my next goal is to get myself inside the top-50 on the world rankings.
"I'm just outside the top-100 at present (119) but I'd love to throw a couple of wins in and that would help immensely.
"So this round is a good start in that regard and if I win this week, who knows?"
The 28-year-old Quiros teed off shortly after McIlroy had left the course and while the Spaniard made a good start to his quest for a sixth European Tour success, he was not surprised to see the Briton's name at the top of the leaderboard.
"You have to be a little bit lucky to shoot low in these windy conditions and I don't know if Rory and those in the morning had the same conditions but seeing (his) name up there is not a surprise," Quiros said.
"He seems to be up there every single week."
Fading light meant three men in the 138-player field will have to return to the course early on Friday morning to complete their remaining two holes.