VIRGINIA WATER England (Reuters) - Love seems to be the theme of the BMW PGA Championship and the trend continued on Thursday when Thomas Bjorn sent hearts racing with a record 62 and Rory McIlroy briefly forgot relationship blues after a 68.
Danish veteran Bjorn, in love with golf again after a spell when he was disillusioned with the sport, sprinted two shots clear of the field after firing the lowest score in relation to par in the 60-year history of the tournament.
“To go out on this golf course of all places and play like I did today is a little bit surprising,” the 43-year-old told reporters at Wentworth.
“It was one of those days where you just walk off and you think, I want to keep playing,” added Bjorn after storming two shots ahead of Irishman Shane Lowry and three in front of Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello at the end of the opening round.
A previously glum-looking McIlroy, who admitted he would find it tough to focus on the European Tour’s flagship event after breaking off his engagement with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday, was suddenly all smiles after eagling the par-four seventh.
The world number 10 from Northern Ireland saw his 130-yard approach with a pitching wedge land in the rough at the back of the green before the ball spun sharply back and rolled 30 feet until it disappeared into the middle of the cup.
McIlroy also eagled the par-five 12th after a majestic five-iron from 203 yards ended within tap-in range.
”It was a good day, I played well and hit a lot of solid shots,“ he said. ”The two eagles helped obviously and it’s a good round for me around this place.
“I scored really well. It all helps and it’s something that I wasn’t doing this time last year.”
McIlroy has struggled at Wentworth in the past, missing the cut in six of his previous visits.
“I’d just be delighted to make it to the weekend because I haven’t done for the last couple of years,” he said.
“I feel like I‘m playing well enough to shoot good scores and I’ll try and go out tomorrow and shoot something similar or even better and get myself in the mix.”
Bjorn crammed eight birdies and an eagle into his sizzling 10-under effort. The Dane’s timing was impeccable as he finished just before a torrential downpour forced play to be suspended because of a threat of lightning.
It was one of two 45-minute delays during the day, interruptions that meant 33 players will have to return on Friday morning to complete their rounds.
Bjorn’s score matched the nine-under 62 recorded by Robert Karlsson in 2010 but the Swede’s effort came when the par for the iconic West Course on the outskirts of London was 71.
The Dane claimed the 15th victory of his tour career at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa in December and is eyeing a Ryder Cup comeback later this year.
”I feel great about tour life, I feel great about golf,“ said Bjorn. ”I enjoy being out here which I probably didn’t do for a couple of years.
“I have travelled with my golf clubs since I was 14 and sometimes you forget why you love the game and it becomes hard work. You travel around the world, you’re not playing very well and this tour can be a lonely, hard place.”
Bjorn, who did not drop a stroke all day, reached the turn in 32 with birdies at the second, fourth and seventh.
The early starter then put his foot firmly on the gas on the homeward trek, adding an eagle at the 12th to birdies at the 10th, 11th, 14th, 16th and 18th.
Bjorn, three-times a runner-up in majors, made his first appearance at the PGA Championship in 1996 but has rarely performed well at the tournament, a tie for fifth place in 1998 being his best finish.
He said the rain had made Ernie Els’s redesigned layout simpler to attack. ”It certainly made it easier, there’s no doubt about that,“ he explained. ”The fairways are fairly bouncy still but this golf course, if you just keep it out of all Ernie’s bunkers you’ve got a chance. “On the European Tour there’s no bigger stage than this. It’s the players’ event, we have a lot of heart in this event, we are very proud of it and to come out and play great is just special.”
Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris