LONDON (Reuters) - England’s Richard Bland made the most of ideal conditions to set the early pace at BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Thursday, carding a five-under 67 to top the leaderboard.
He was joined on five-under by compatriot Matthew Fitzpatrick who saved par on the last with a chip and a putt after hitting his ball into the water.
Former world number one Rory McIlroy, back at the European PGA’s flagship event for the first time since 2015, was one of the later starters and was one-over after three holes.
Bland, whose best career result came at Wentworth in 2006 when he was fifth, made six birdies during his round, dropping one shot at the par-four sixth.
“I know the results are not showing it but I felt It was trending back in the right direction,” Bland said after shooting his lowest score in 29 rounds at Wentworth.
“It’s just nice to finally see something red for the hours you’ve put in on the range.”
South African duo Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt also reached five-under late into their opening rounds.
Northern Ireland’s former Open champion Darren Clarke pulled out late on after injuring his ankle the day before.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge