VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Rory McIlroy and David Drysdale illustrated the fine line between success and failure on the opening day of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
World No. 1 McIlroy went out of bounds by an inch and threw a club as a 2-over-par 74 left him in danger of missing the halfway cut for a second successive tournament -- and possibly losing the top spot in the world rankings again to Luke Donald.
BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Aside from the British Open, the BMW PGA Championship is the biggest and most prestigious event on the European Tour.
Drysdale, 290 places below him in the rankings, could not believe his luck as his second shot to the final hole went into the water and bounced out again.
"You could hit 1,000 balls and never have that happen," said the 37-year-old Scot, who went on to birdie the par 5 for a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead with Ireland's Peter Lawrie.
"I don't know what it hit -- maybe a fish," he added. "It was a massive break. I don't think I can say what I would have thought if I had taken 6 or 7 there."
McIlroy's show of frustration, which could result in a European Tour fine, came as he ran up a 6 on the long 12th. It was the last of four bogeys in five holes, and a double bogey at the 16th was to follow. He had earlier eagled the fourth.
"A bit of déjà vu," said McIlroy, having started with a 76 last year. "Two under through seven, so it's just pretty disappointing. I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I just need to go out there and shoot the scores."
On the shot at the 12th, McIlroy added: "I was just trying to cut it in, trying to hold it up against the wind and just double-crossed it."
Tournament Director David Garland said in a statement: "I have not yet had the chance to view the incident, but I will be requesting a tape.
"If any breach of the Tour's guidelines on course etiquette is found, then appropriate action will be taken in due course," he added. "But any decision is unlikely to be taken until after the tournament has finished."
McIlroy crashed out early from The Players Championship in Florida two weeks ago and might need a four-stroke improvement Friday to survive this time. If the 23-year-old does fail to make it through to the weekend, Donald will need a top-8 finish to go back to No. 1, but he is aiming much higher than that after a 68.
McIlroy finished the day tied for 99th place. Only the top 65 and ties qualify for the final two rounds and it might even need a 68 from him.
With a chance to join Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players to make a successful defense of the European Tour's flagship event, Donald bogeyed the ninth and 10th like McIlroy, but had already had four birdies and two more were to come in the last three holes.
That still made him the highest scorer in his group, though. Compatriot Justin Rose and big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros both scored 67, Rose after fearing he might have to pull out before the start because of vertigo symptoms.
"An hour before my tee time I thought, 'I can't play'," Rose said. "I was nearly falling over and was sitting in the doctor's chair for a while. He gave me an anti-nausea or something and did a good job getting me ready. I felt fine all the way round."
McIlroy was the highest scorer in his three-ball. Ernie Els, the man who toughened up the course two years ago, shot 68 and Scotland’s Martin Laird, runner-up at TPC Sawgrass, had a 73 in his BMW PGA debut.
Lee Westwood, whose playoff defeat to Donald 12 months ago cost him the world No. 1 position, returned a 70 and was delighted with that.
"I didn't have anywhere near my A-game and not even my B-game really," he said.
The two pacesetters, Drysdale and Lawrie, are both outside the game's top 200, with former Spanish Open champion Lawrie currently standing 212th. Lawrie was also tied for the lead on the first day in 2006 and didn’t waste a blistering start in which he eagled the fourth and birdied the second, fifth and sixth.
"I played so well in practice that I was kind of very nervous starting out," said Lawrie. "I missed a couple coming in, but 66 can't be sneezed at. The course is set up great for me -- I'm not one of the longest hitters on tour, but one of the straightest.
"You have to very patient and I'm quite a patient person. My wife wouldn't believe that, but I am on the course!"
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell joined the long list of players to fall afoul of golf's rules. A two-stroke penalty turned the Ryder Cup hero's closing 6 into a triple-bogey 8 as he started with a disappointing 74. McDowell's drive was leaked into the trees and as he went to weigh up his options for his second shot the ball moved.
"I was standing probably from here to you," the Northern Irishman said, indicating a distance of some six feet. "I'm not sure what I could have done, but I felt something was wrong -- the whole area felt like it was just kind of bouncing."
After the incident was reviewed on TV -- he had asked for that -- he was judged to have caused the ball to move, even by only a fraction, and so that was a one-shot penalty. But McDowell didn’t then replace it into his original position before chipping out -- and that added one more to his score.
"How are you supposed to attempt to place the ball when you're not sure it's moved in the first place? It's just a harsh one -- one of those freak scenarios in golf," he added. "It's my fault. I probably should have called in a referee. The rules of golf are very precise and very in-depth and it's impossible to know every idiosyncrasy of them.
"I've cost myself a shot there by getting a little careless. Once the ref is there we are protected because we can't do anything wrong at that point -- even if he gives you a wrong ruling, it's correct because he's told you to do it. There's cameras around and so many strange little fiddly rules that we are all so damned scared to take relief.
"It ends up slowing the pace of play down because you have to call a ref and he might be 10 minutes away."