Paul McGinley conducted a course management masterclass at Wentworth Club to surge to the top of the leaderboard and head the 150 strong field into the second round of the BMW PGA Championship.
McGinley’s sensational seven under par 65 saw the Irishman continue his love affair with the Ernie Els-redesigned West Course to set a new course record and lead the way by a shot from his nearest challenger, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson.
After a solid front nine of 33, McGinley – a runner-up at the Surrey venue in both the 2005 BMW PGA Championship and World Match Play Championship later that same year – produced a stunning back nine performance, picking up five birdies in total to establish what proved to be an insurmountable first round lead.
“Obviously I'm thrilled with that,” he said. “I've struggled most of the year with average first rounds and the standard is so high on The European Tour now you seem to get behind very quickly if you do that – I'm just thrilled more than anything to get off to a good start.
“When the course is playing hard and fast like this, I think this is a real proper test of golf. I don’t think we’re tested enough on course management anymore and this is what the game was initially designed around and I revel in it – I love conditions like this.”
McGinley also alluded to the fact that it is 50 years exactly since an Irishman last won this event – Harry Bradshaw in 1958 – the same number of years that also figured largely as a catalyst for Manchester United in their emotional Champions League victory over Chelsea in Moscow on Wednesday night.
“They believed, didn’t they,” he said. “But I am experienced enough to know that there is a lot of golf to be played between where I am now sitting and finishing as the champion on Sunday night. If I am going to get anywhere near it, I am going to have to play the quality of golf I played today for another three days.”
While McGinley’s best golf came on the back nine, Karlsson spread his haul of six birdies across the 18 holes, picking up three shots on both the front and back nine to move into second spot on his own, one ahead of Australia’s Marcus Fraser and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and two clear of Welshman Garry Houston, South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik and Simon Wakefield of England.
The Swede was by far and away the best score of the afternoon matches, using all of the requisite attributes in the conditions – patience and sensational putting – to get to within a single shot of McGinley going into the second round.
“I putted very well and kept the ball in play,” said Karlsson. “When I got in a bit of a problem, I tried to play sensibly and it worked out fine.”
Like the leading duo, Marcus Fraser did not drop a shot all day in his tidy 67 while the man sharing third place with him – Louis Oosthuizen – did, he more than made up for his solitary blemish at the 396 yard seventh, with a sensational finish which featured birdies at each of the closing three holes.
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