A touch of the Tigers as frustrated McIlroy loses his grip at Wentworth

Don’t be surprised if his mum has more than a quiet word. Rosie McIlroy has been known to take her son, Rory, to one side when he strays from the straight and narrow.

So she won’t have been impressed to see him throwing a club during his poor opening round at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Visibly frustrated after tugging his second shot to the 12th green out of bounds, and blocking his provisional to the right, McIlroy’s uncharacteristic response was to send his long iron cartwheeling across the turf in the direction of his caddie, JP Fitzgerald.

Losing it: McIlroy
Losing it: McIlroy

Losing it: Rory McIlroy shows his frustration after his 4th shot on the 12th hole

Tiger Woods might have done it a thousand times, but from this particular world No 1 it was a surprising lapse from his customary role as the model pro.

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old Northern Irishman had talked eloquently about the responsibilities that come with his elevated position. When you’ve got lots of adoring young fans following your every move and copying your example, not throwing clubs is surely one of them.

He’s certain to cop a four-figure fine from the European Tour. To be fair to McIlroy, he will probably be mortified and think it fully deserving if he can ever bring himself to watch the television replay.

McIlroy squandered a couple of good starts to rounds here last year and was plainly agitated to do so again, looking as brassed off at the end as this observer can remember.

Two under and cruising after seven holes following an eagle three at the fourth, he had four bogeys in his next five holes, eventually signing for a 74 that left him eight shots behind the leaders, Peter Lawrie from Ireland and Scot David Drysdale.

Joint leader: David Drysdale and his caddie ponder a superb round

Joint leader: David Drysdale and his caddie ponder a superb round

Perhaps more pertinently, he has given world No 2 and defending champion Luke Donald a six-shot head start, while world No 10 Justin Rose shot a fine 67.

‘It’s frustrating because the course is playing well,’ said McIlroy, a fact borne out by the plethora of scores in the sixties. ‘Standing on the first tee you’re thinking the worst you should be shooting is three or four under.’

With that he was off to pose for a photograph as Golfer of the Month for March. The result was Forced Smile of the Month for May.

Another cheesed-off camper was McIlroy’s great mate Graeme McDowell, who also shot 74, taking an eight down the final hole which included a two-shot penalty after falling victim to another daft rule.

McDowell had driven into a horrible spot and waded into the undergrowth to see if he could play his shot. When he was six feet away he stood on an interconnecting set of branches which tremored fatefully and caused the ball to move a couple of dimples.

Fury: Graeme McDowell was a victim of a daft rule on the 18th

Fury: Graeme McDowell was a victim of a daft rule on the 18th

Because he didn’t replace it — he needed to see high-definition television pictures later to confirm the dreaded news — he was deemed to have played the ball from the wrong place, hence the two-shot penalty.

It’s never a comfortable feeling when a player gets done when there’s clearly no intent to break the rules, and, while McDowell took the decision on the chin with all the grace we’ve come to expect, it was hardly the point.

Ernie Els was not impressed and summed up the prevailing mood with a colourful phrase. Referring to some of the odd rules dreamed up by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the South African said: ‘There’s obviously a lot of gin-swigging goes on up there.’

McIlroy was the only player among the highly ranked to finish out of position. Playing partners Donald and Rose were accompanied by a huge gallery in the afternoon sunshine, and together with talented Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, finished a total of 14 under par, while world No 3 Lee Westwood opened with a 70 that spoke volumes for the improvement in his much-maligned short game.

In the hunt: Luke Donald could regain the world No 1 spot

In the hunt: Luke Donald could regain the world No 1 spot

‘I didn’t have my A game and probably not my B game either, so under the circumstances it’s one of the best rounds of 70 I have shot,’ he said.

How nice to see Els continue his good form as well with a 68. He’s certainly looking a lot more relaxed on the course and his improved putting is the reason.

‘Bobby Locke once said good putters always have a good sense of humour and, as you guys can attest, I haven’t had a great sense of humour for the last 18 months,’ said Els.

‘I had serious problems on the greens. Now I feel a lot better and it’s going in the right direction.’

So is this event, following an eventful first day that brought the good, bad and a little ugliness.

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