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Thursday, 01 September 2011
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer began the year battling with each other and that was how it was again as the Omega European Masters begun in Switzerland.

After 12 holes at Crans-sur-Sierre the world's fifth and sixth-ranked players were both four under par, one behind Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares.

McIlroy, back in action after injuring his arm against a tree root at the US PGA Championship three weeks ago, had to wait until only his third hole for his opening birdie at the 410 yard 12th.

The US Open Champion then picked up further strokes at the 15th, second and short third.

Kaymer, who pushed McIlroy into second place at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January, birdied three of his first six holes, bogeyed the next, but then had two more birdies around the turn.

Cañizares, whose father Jose Maria was a hero of the 1989 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, had his only European Tour victory in Russia five years ago.

He was in the first group to tee off on the back nine, turned in a two under 33 and then moved into pole position with further birdies at the first, fifth and sixth.

World Number Two Lee Westwood and Open Champion Darren Clarke were among the later starters, while defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez was two under with six to play.

Cañizares set the target with a five under 66, but McIlroy, having bogeyed the fourth after finding sand, sank a 20 footer on the next and with a 15 foot putt at the sixth went into the joint lead.

Kaymer and England's Richard McEvoy were one behind and Dane Thomas Björn, winner of the marathon play-off at Gleneagles on Sunday, suddenly only two back when he rolled in a 35 foot eagle putt at the driveable seventh.

McIlroy, who lost a play-off in the event three years ago, said: "I took a lot of positives from that week and hopefully I can draw inspiration from it.

"My arm's nearly back to 100 per cent. I had a good bit of treatment on it and rested it.

"I kept my eye in last week, but it was nice to get back on the course and feel the competitive juices again."

Sunday's winner Thomas Björn was two over par after three, but hit back for a 68 - the obvious highlight of which was a 35 foot eagle putt after driving the par four seventh.

He was in joint fifth with Welshman Jamie Donaldson, England's David Lynn and Ryder Cup Swede Peter Hanson, while defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez two further back after going out of bounds for a double-bogey six on the seventh.

Westwood made a start full of drama. He double-bogeyed the second, but played the next five in a remarkable six under.

After a birdie at the third he holed for eagle on the fifth, birdied the next and followed that with another eagle two at the seventh - like the fifth a driveable par four.

On four under he was up into joint fourth and there alongside him after a back nine 31 was compatriot Nick Dougherty, who last week suffered his 21st missed cut in a row.

Dougherty finished strongly at Gleneagles and, hugely encouraged by that, birdied the tenth, 15th, 16th and 18th.

Another birdie on the ninth completed a five under outward 31 for Westwood, but it was Dougherty who caught McIlroy and Kaymer first.

He did it with birdies at the first and third as his return to form continued.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BJÖRN, ThomasDEN18-20
2KAYMER, MartinGER18-16
T3VAN ZYL, JacoRSA18-15
T3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-15
T3DONALDSON, JamieWAL18-15
T6ANDERSSON HED, FredrikSWE18-14
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