Rory McIlroy was in bullish form upon his European Tour return after posting a three-under par round of 67 on day one of the European Masters at the picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Fresh from banking $15million after a Tour Championship procession at East Lake, McIlroy’s eyes are firmly fixed on top spot in the world rankings after completing his most consistent season on the PGA Tour to date.
“I feel like when I’m playing my best golf, that I’m the best player in the world,” McIlroy said, as his on-course rivalry with current top dog, Brooks Koepka continues to bubble.
“I’d like to get back there. It’s been a goal of mine for a while. I haven’t experienced that summit for the last four years so I feel like with the work I’m putting in and the consistent golf that I’m playing, it’s only a matter of time.”
Winning tournaments is how McIlroy will ultimately get back to the summit and he produced another stellar opening round, this time back in Switzerland after he carded six birdies in his minus-three showing.
It could have been a few better for the Holywood star but it was a tale of transition for McIlroy following such a long stint on the PGA Tour as he acclimatized to European Tour conditions ahead of a season run-in that will take in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the Alfred Dunhill Links, the HSBC Champions and the season finale in Dubai.
“I played well on the back nine which was our front nine so to play that in three-under was good,” reflected McIlroy.
“I took advantage of a couple of the shorter par-4’s on the front nine but I made a couple of bogeys there as well. Overall it was OK. It’s so different to the golf I’ve been playing over the last few weeks so I’m just trying to adjust to these sorts of greens again, how far the ball’s going and what the ball’s going to do out of the rough but I felt like I did OK.”
The fact that he’s playing the event at all is credit to his commitment though McIlroy admits that there could be worse places to follow-up his FedExCup windfall than the foothills of the Swiss Alps.
“I think if I have to play a tournament this week, I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else. My wife and her parents are having a great time. They went up to Matterhorn yesterday, they’re having fun. It’s a beautiful place and I’m glad I’m back after all these years and hopefully I’ll play a bit of good golf over the next few days and give myself a chance.”
Sadly, Paul Dunne’s struggles of late continued on day one after he returned a three-over par 73 that leaves him with plenty of work to do to make the weekend cut tomorrow.
Gavin Moynihan endured similar frustration as he posted five bogeys in a 73 of his own while European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington went a couple better but will still need a good score tomorrow from one-over par to ensure he makes the weekend’s play.
At the top, Mike Lorenzo-Vera lit up the back nine at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club to share the lead with Matthias Schwab at seven under par after day one of the Omega European Masters.
A host of Major Championship and multiple European Tour winners have made the trip to stunning Crans Montana this week – including World Number Two Rory McIlroy – but it was two men seeking a first victory who set the pace with opening rounds of 63.
Austrian Schwab had set the target in the morning with a bogey free effort before Frenchman Lorenzo-Vera came home in 29 to join him at the summit in the spectacular Swiss venue.
Italian Lorenzo Gagli, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg are their closest challengers at six under par, one shot ahead of 2017 Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood, South African Erik van Rooyen – who clinched his maiden European Tour title in Sweden last week – Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Scot David Drysdale, Malaysia’s Gavin Green and Italian Guido Migliozzi.
Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters Tournament winner and champion here in 2005, is amongst a group of 11 players at four-under par.
Full scoring HERE
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