HONG KONG - World number two Rory McIlroy was the joint leader after the first round of the $2.75 million UBS Hong Kong Open Thursday where the Northern Irishman shot an impressive six-under-par 64. The US Open champion was joined by Alvaro Quiros and David Horsey after the Spaniard Quiros chipped in on the 18th and the English golfer hit a stunning approach to leave himself a tap-in as the light began to fade. McIlroy went out early in the morning and tamed the blustery conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club with a bogey-free round in what he described as his best-ever over the course. “It’s my best here for sure,” said the 22-year-old. “I handled the wind pretty well today and I think I have shot a 63 here once but this was better than that given the conditions.”
McIlroy, who was a runner-up in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009 was quick to keep his feet on the ground however. “There’s still a long way to go in this tournament,” he said. “I’ve led a lot of tournaments from the first day, and I’ve won a couple of them, but I realize more than anyone, there is a long way to go - 54 holes. I’ll have to play very, very well to pick up this trophy.” Two birdies on his first nine and four on the back did it for McIlroy, who played in a group that included reigning Hong Kong champion Ian Poulter, who struggled on the greens on his way to a plus-one 71. The Englishman couldn’t buy a putt all round and left vowing to put in the hours on the practice green in the afternoon.
“I’m obviously disappointed, the wind was tricky and I played nicely but didn’t hole a putt out there,” said Poulter. “I’ve got work to do tomorrow and this golf course will play tougher as it goes.”
Quiros, known for his long drives, had his short game to thank for joining McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard, while Horsey’s nine-iron to within two feet on the last left him with a simple birdie putt for a share of the lead. Quiros, 28, recovered from an errant approach shot on the par four last with a chip-in for birdie. It was the second chip-in of the day for Quiros - after he had performed the same trick for an eagle on the par-five 12th.