McIroy not breathing easy in China
Jamie Donaldson of Wales set a course record by shooting 10-under-par 62 Thursday en route to a four-stroke lead after the opening round of the BMW Masters.
Donaldson produced two bogey-free rounds of 31 at Lake Malaren and needed only 24 putts to break the record of 63 set by Noh Seung-yul of South Korea last year.
''I just played great from the word go, and it was one of those days where everything went for me,'' Donaldson said. ''The longest birdie putt I had all day was 20 feet at the 11th.
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, the defending champion of this European Tour event, had a 67 and blamed a headache on the air pollution over China's financial capital.
''We're not breathing in the cleanest air,'' he said. ''A good night's sleep tonight, and I should be OK for tomorrow.''
Sweden's Peter Hanson and Italy's Francesco Molinari with 66s. Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and Europe Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal were another stroke back.
McIlroy was even all day with playing partner and Race to Dubai rival Justin Rose, until their last hole when McIlroy followed a 144-yard 9-iron shot onto the green with a 3-foot birdie putt. He finished one stroke better than Rose.
''It was a great way to finish. But then I prepared well for this week having worked all last week with my coach Michael (Bannon) out in the States, and it was definitely a whole lot better than out in Turkey,'' McIlroy said, referring to the eight-man exhibition in which he failed to make the semifinals more than a week ago. ''That was more like a holiday, and today I very much had my tournament face back.''
He hoped not to be bothered again by the headaches that affected him on the back nine.
Olazabal was delighted to record his best first-day score of 67 in four years.
''While the driver was the weakest link, the rest of the game was pretty sharp,'' the Spaniard said. ''I feel some freedom now the Ryder Cup is behind me and it's been a tough year-and-a-half, a lot of things on my mind, decisions to make, meetings to attend. So I'm really glad that it's over. Now it's fun time.''
The 51st-ranked Donaldson wants to end his 11th full season on the European Tour inside the top 50. If achieved, he'll play the two World Golf Championships in the US next year and qualify for his first Masters. His only three US tournaments were this year.
''So it would be a great Christmas present to know that I will be playing in the Masters next year,'' he said. ''It would be quite sensational but I need to stay in the present and just keep crossing each bridge as it comes.''
In July, Donaldson ended a title drought lasting 10-1/2 years and 255 tournaments in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.