The Englishman Matt Wallace shot a 65 and is one ahead of Henrik Stenson while Rory McIlroy is in danger of missing the cut after errors late in his round
The BMW PGA Championship has been good to English golfers since the arrival of the current sponsors in 2005. David Howell, Paul Casey, Simon Khan, Luke Donald twice and Chris Wood have all prevailed at Wentworth. Matt Wallaces 65 to open this staging of the European Tours flagship event demonstrated a willingness to keep a red and white flag at the leaderboards summit. Recent history is in his favour.
Wallace reached seven under par without a bogey, such was the level of his play in sun-kissed Surrey. In the bigger picture, victory here would probably place Wallace back at the top of the European Tours order of merit; he began this week in fourth.
This is the tours biggest event and my home event now, Wallace said. Ive played the course plenty of times before coming into this week, and I feel comfortable. It always helps when your games in shape as well. I played the first seven or eight holes as good as I possibly could and showed my allround game by grinding out the last few holes.
If Wallaces prominence is not really a surprise, the same cannot be said for Henrik Stenson. The Swede has been out of sorts for much of this season, with his decision not to take part in the FedEx Cup play-off series in the US as he was eligible to do thought to be a sign of confidence loss. He is one shot adrift of Wallace after 18 holes, a matter due in no small part to a wonderful eagle at the last.
I had played 18 tournaments up until the WGC in Memphis at the end of July, Stenson said. My energy levels were quite low. I promised I would play in Sweden and I didnt fancy going back and forth, back and forth. So I took some time off and hopefully we can finish off the year strongly.
Looking back at my career, I dont think Ive been having too many wins and too many really good finishes when I havent started with a decent round or better. It sets up the week nicely and I just hope I can continue with that. Ive got a few things that Im working on in terms of processes, that is all I can control, and hopefully we keep on scoring well at the same time.
Jon Rahm matched Stensons score courtesy of back-to-back nines of 33. I love these types of golf courses, I grew up playing on so many of them in Spain, he said. Casey was also six under par when playing the 18th but made a double bogey. Justin Roses 67 was impressive given the former world No 1 had been a doubt even to participate because of a knee problem. Beware the injured golfer, and all that.
Viktor Hovland has arrived back in Europe to something of a fanfare after some stirring performances on the PGA Tour and opened promisingly courtesy of a 69. Its been a blast, was the Norwegians assessment of a rare visit to England.
Rory McIlroy was chugging along perfectly nicely when three under par after five holes. Even bogeys at the 8th and 9th did not seem a major problem as the Northern Irishman reached the turn in red numbers. McIlroys closing holes, though, were a disaster: he dropped a shot at the 15th before finishing seven-six (double bogey, bogey), as a round that started with such promise resulted in 76 shots. McIlroys ambition for Friday is obvious: just to survive for the weekend.