HONG KONG Defending champion Rory McIlroy finished nine shots behind leader Javier Colomo after the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday.
McIlroy admitted to feeling lethargic after shooting a 3-over 73.
Colomo, ranked 506th, recorded a career-best 64 in overcast and windy conditions on the suburban Fanling course.
That earned him a one-stroke lead over fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australia’s Andrew Dodt.
The 48-year-old Jimenez would break his own record as oldest Hong Kong champion from 2008, and oldest ever winner on the European Tour if he were to capture the title a third time this weekend.
“I am like a good bottle of rioja because I just get better and better with age,” Jimenez said with a smile.
Countryman Jose Maria Olazabal put himself in position to end a seven-year winless drought on the tour, playing alongside Jimenez and being among five players signing for 67s.
Olazabal also won in Hong Kong, in 2002.
McIlroy bogeyed his first hole and made his only birdie at the par-5 third hole. He dropped a shot at the sixth after being forced to play his second shot left-handed from beside a bush, and bogeyed 14 and 15.
“I just lacked a bit of energy out there, I felt a bit lethargic and mentally more than physically, if I am being honest,” he said.
“I bogeyed the first, but then just got more frustrated as the round went on. I just felt like I was hitting some decent shots and just not really converting any chances for birdies and I just let it go a little bit.”
McIlroy believes he’s just going through a comedown after securing the tour money title last weekend in Singapore.
“I suppose after last week, and winning the Race to Dubai title, it was always going to be a bit of a letdown,” he said. “I feel as though I am playing well enough, but I just need to get my head and the golf to match up and I’ll be OK.”
Colomo found everything in synch in his Hong Kong Open debut.
He began his round on the back nine and after 10 straight pars he stormed to the top of the board with six birdies over his closing eight holes.
Colomo lost his card last year on Europe’s secondary Challenge Tour and this season has been competing on the Asian Tour.
“After losing my card on the Challenge Tour, I was lucky to qualify for the Asian Tour and I’m 33rd on the rankings,” Colomo said. “That’s perfect, because I now get to play co-sanctioned tournaments like this on the European Tour.
“So it’s been a good chance for me to improve, and why not try and win a tournament and get myself onto the European Tour.”
South African Open
JOHANNESBURG Merrick Bremner of South Africa birdied six of his first nine holes, shooting an 8-under 64 to tie the course record in the opening round of the South African Open.
He's two shots ahead of Sweden's Henrik Stenson and South Africa's Matthew Carvell at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel recovered from a double-bogey 5 on his third hole at the 12th for a 68. Martin Kaymer shot 70, while Branden Grace was even par.
The 26-year-old Bremner consolidated his outstanding 30 with two more birdies on the back nine. His bogey-free round raised hopes of a first European Tour title at his home event.
“I played fantastically on the first nine,” he said. “I didn't miss a green and there was only one chance that I missed that was makeable, and that was on 15. But in theory, I could have shot 28 on the first nine.”
Craig Lee and Alex Haindl each shot a 67 to trail by three strokes.
After his struggles on No. 12, Schwartzel returned to the form that landed him the 2011 title at Augusta National. He had a chip on No. 2 to set up one of his six birdies and didn't drop any more shots.
Kaymer double-bogeyed his first hole on his South African Open debut – calling it a “bit of a shocker” – but picked himself up with four birdies.
Grace, enjoying a breakthrough season since winning back his tour card for 2012, could only manage three birdies, plus a bogey and double on his back nine. Defending champion Hennie Otto shot 71 and amateur Terence Boardman made a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th and finished with a 74.
MELBOURNE, Australia Australia's Matthew Guyatt upstaged the marquee players at the Australian Masters, shooting a 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead after the first round at Kingston Heath.
Adam Scott had five birdies on his final nine holes for a 67 and was tied for second with defending champion Ian Poulter of England and New Zealander Michael Hendry.
Former Australian Masters champion Stuart Appleby had a 71, as did 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who was playing in the same group as Scott.
“It was a nice day,” said the 37-year-old Guyatt, who plays on the Japanese Challenge tour. “I have never been in this position before. It's what you do all the hard work and practice for. I am not going to get ahead of myself.
“It's the first day of four and we all know it takes four good days to win the tournament, particularly when you look at the caliber of those guys.”
Poulter, who won the World Golf Championship's HSBC Champions in China two weeks ago, was satisfied with his score.
“I feel 5 under is a decent round,” he said. “I made a couple of 30-foot putts, but missed a few short ones. But if the greens firm up, it's going to be tough to get to some of those pins.”
Scott, who like Guyatt began his round on the 10th hole, birdied the first four holes on the front nine after starting off with a birdie and a bogey on the back nine.
“I just hit a few shots in there nice and close and had some chances but lipped out the putts, then missed a real short one on 18 out of frustration,” Scott said.
“I made a great putt on two and another good one on four then I was rolling from there. I hit a couple of nice shots and had a couple of short birdie chances too, so it was all really solid stuff.”
Dunlop Phoenix Open
MIYAZAKI, Japan Luke Donald shot a 6-under 65 to take a share of the lead after the first round of the Dunlop Phoenix.
Donald offset a pair of bogeys with eight birdies at the Phoenix Country Club to finish tied with Australian Brendan Jones and Japan's Hideto Tanihara.
Donald won the U.S. PGA Tour and European Tour money titles last season. He is appearing in the Japan Tour event for the first time since 2007.
Japanese golfers Koichiro Kawano and Shunsuke Sonada were two strokes behind the leaders.
Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa, who won last weekend's Taiheiyo Masters for his first victory in two years, shot a 73 that had him tied for 48th.