Sports

Molinari fires 65 to grab early lead at Wentworth

Surrey, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Francesco Molinari fired a bogey-free, 7-under 65 on Thursday and grabbed a 2-stroke lead after the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Molinari, who has had three straight top-10 finishes at this event, last won on tour at the 2012 Open de Espana.

"I think I missed one green on the third and chipped up to two feet, so it was as stress-free as it could be round here," Molinari said. "I love this place and it's good to be back. It rewards accuracy, which suits my game."

Robert Karlsson sits two strokes off the lead at 5-under 67. Miguel Angel Jimenez carded a 4-under 68 and was joined in third place by Y.E. Yang, Marc Warren, Chris Wood and Jorge Campillo.

Thomas Bjorn, the third-round leader last year, opened with a 3-under 69. He shared eighth place with Peter Lawrie, Nicolas Colsaerts, Pablo Larrazabal, Tommy Fleetwood and Jerome Lando Casanova.

World No. 1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy managed a 1-under 71 and is tied for 23rd after round one.

McIlroy had two birdies and two bogeys in the first five holes. He parred six straight holes from the sixth. McIlroy wrapped birdies at 12 and 14 around a bogey on the 13th.

Karlsson had carded his 67 early in the day and Molinari used a strong back nine to move past the Swede and into first place.

Molinari opened with three pars in a row. He birdied the par-4 fourth to get on the board and followed with another birdie at the fifth.

The three three-time European Tour winner ran off five consecutive pars from the sixth. Molinari dropped in back-to-back birdies from the 11th to climb within one of Karlsson's lead.

Molinari joined Karlsson at minus-5 as he birdied the par-3 14th. After a pair of pars, Molinari took advantage of the closing par-5s.

He tapped in a 3-foot birdie try at 17, then birdied the 18th from a similar distance to close out his 25th straight round of par or better at Wentworth.

Karlsson also opened with a trio of pars. He dropped in a birdie chance at the fourth and made another at six. However, he gave that right back as he bogeyed the par-4 seventh.

The 11-time European Tour winner atoned for that mistake with a birdie at the eighth. Around the turn, he moved to minus-3 with a birdie at No. 11.

Karlsson parred four in a row from the 12th, then moved into the early lead with a pair of late gains. He birdied the 16th and closed his round with another birdie at the 18th.

"It was nice to put a good round together. I've been struggling a little bit lately, so it was nice to keep it going through the whole 18 holes," Karlsson said. "You've got to keep it in play off the tee to play well here. The greens are not so easy to putt at the moment, so it will have to be on the fairway to give yourself a proper chance and thankfully I managed to do that today."

NOTES: Molinari has been inside the top-14 at the end of the round in 11 of his last 13 rounds at Wentworth ... He has tied for seventh, ninth and seventh the last three years ... Andrew Johnston won a BMW with a hole-in-one on the 10th, while Craig Lee aced the second ... Edoardo Molinari withdrew with a wrist injury and Padraig Harrington (shoulder) withdrew for the first time in his European Tour career.