Wallace leads PGA Championship, McIlroy struggles to 76

Wallace leads the PGA Championship by one-stroke. (Reuters/USA Today Sports pic)

LONDON: England’s Matt Wallace carded a blemish-free seven-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

Wallace set the clubhouse target with five birdies and an eagle on the par-five fourth to lead Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Spain’s Jon Rahm who both signed for 66 in the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth, Surrey.

“This is the tour’s biggest event and my home event now,” Wallace, ranked 26th in the world, said. “I’ve played the course plenty of times before coming into this week and I feel comfortable.

“It always helps when your game’s in shape as well. I played the first seven or eight holes as good as I possibly could and showed my all-round game by grinding out the last few holes.”

Four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy started brightly and looked set to take the lead but the world No 2 struggled on the back nine to finish with a four-over 76.

After sinking an eagle on the fourth hole and a birdie on the fifth to go three-under, the Northern Irishman made six bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-five 17th to finish 11 strokes behind Wallace and in danger of missing the cut.

British Open champion Shane Lowry did not fare too well either, striking only two birdies which were offset by two bogeys to finish at level-par.

England’s Justin Rose, the world No 4 and former US Open champion, was in fourth place, two shots behind Wallace.