Former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy rallied for a sub-par 70 after a difficult start at the Kolon Korea Open yesterday to sit in a disappointing tie for 12th.
The two-time major winner is the star attraction at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club where the US$1 million One Asia Tour event is the Northern Irishman’s first taste of competitive golf after a month-long break.
McIlroy, who lies in 60th position on the European Tour standings, was two-over par with five holes to play before bouncing back with three birdies to complete a first-round score of one-under.
The 24-year-old world No. 6 exchanged a bogey with a birdie on the front nine before coming away with a double bogey on the par-3 13th after finding water off the tee.
The 2011 US Open champion and last year’s PGA winner is in a seven-way tie, three shots off the leader — South Korean veteran Jang Ik-jae.
Jang fired the only bogey-free round of the day to shoot a 67 and holds a one-stroke lead going into today’s second round.
It included a spectacular eagle on the par-4 10th, when he found the bottom of the cup with a 9-iron from 155m away.
Jang led the 2005 Korea Open through three rounds but shot a 76 on the final day to drop to a tie for 14th.
A two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, Jang is seeking his first victory on home soil since 2005.
“I didn’t hit it too well off the tee, but I hit some good recovery shots and putted well,” Jang said.
In second place on three-under par was the South Korean trio of Kang Sung-hoon, Yoon Jung-ho, Han Min-kyu and Eric Mina of the US — the highest-placed non-Korean.
Defending champion Kim Dae-sub of South Korea was one shot further back on 69. Starting his day on the back nine, Kim three-putted for a double bogey on the par-4 11th, but picked up four birdies later.
Tricky pin placements on the 6,591m layout meant only 18 players broke par on the first day.
McIlroy was making his third appearance at the Korea Open. He tied for third in 2009 and finished runner-up to Rickie Fowler in 2011.