Irish eyes were smiling at the end of a glorious opening day of the BMW Championship as Peter Lawrie and Graeme McDowell shared the lead with Portugal’s Jose-Filipe Lima after superb five under par 67s round Wentworth Club’s famed West Course.
It is said the early bird catches the worm and it was certainly the case with Lawrie, out in the first group of the day at 7am who posted a target that only McDowell and Lima could match.
The highlight was an eagle on the eighth where the 31 year old Irishman holed his second shot with a sand wedge from 128 yards. Four birdies in his closing six holes completed a five under par 67.
“It was a great draw to be first off this morning and the greens were in perfect condition,” said Lawrie, the 2003 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year. “You’ve got to take advantage and that’s what I did today.”
McDowell, 25, holed a ten foot putt on the last for the fifth birdie in his last seven holes for a back nine of 32. On each of the last three holes he hit his wedge approaches close for birdie.
“That’s something to build on,” said the Northern Irishman. “It’s nice to get off the mark well in this Championship. This course rewards my type of golf, hitting the fairways and good putting.”
McDowell, winner of two titles on The European Tour International Schedule, has slipped into some old habits in recent months but after a frustrating spell, has rededicated himself and is turning his game around.
“Today was the first time I came out and really felt like I was hitting the shots that I wanted to be hitting and swinging the club the way I want to swing it again. It’s nice to be heading back in a positive direction.”
The last time two Irishmen shared the lead on The European Tour was in this Championship in 1997 when Darren Clarke and Eamonn Darcy carded 66s.
Lima, the youngest of the leading trio at 23 and winner of the dual ranking Aa St Omer Open last year, picked up two birdies in his last three holes to join the two Irishmen. Lima woke up this morning unable to move having pulled a muscle in his back but after some extensive treatment on the Red Bull Physio Unit he took to the course. A little tension at the start cost him a bogey on his opening hole but he followed that with seven birdies and just the one more dropped shot.
Lima, now playing under the Portuguese flag after converting from French to adopt the nationality of his parents, made the perfect start to his debut in the BMW Championship.
“I am normally a long hitter but because of the pain in my back, had to just play with rhythm and work the ball round the course,” he said. “This is not a long course which helps and I managed to hole a few putts.”
They lead a group of nine players who carded four under par 68s which includes 2002 Open Champion Ben Curtis, who eagled the last to propel himself up the leaderboard, and the 2002 PGA Champion, Andrew Oldcorn.
Left-hander Nick O’Hern, looking to end a run of five runners-up finishes with his maiden victory, was one of four Australians in the chasing pack, the others being Wade Ormsby, Marcus Fraser and Peter Fowler.
The Swedish pair of Maarten Olander and Peter Fowler also posted 68s.
Stephen Dodd of Wales, who claimed his second title of the season last week, made a solid start to sit in the group on 69 while Miguel Angel Jiménez, Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, David Howell, and US Open Champion Retief Goosen, were among those to post a two under par 70 on a glorious opening day.