Fleetwood, Hovland share Wentworth lead

·2-min read

Stormy weather provided a fitting backdrop for the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth where players on both sides of golf's bitter power struggle were in action on the soggy fairways.

The flagship tournament of the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) has been overshadowed by the presence of 17 golfers who have signed up for the divisive LIV Tour - the Saudi-backed series rocking golf's status quo.

Northern Ireland's four-times major champion Rory McIlroy, one of the favourites for the title, has pulled no punches in criticising his former Ryder Cup colleagues who have jumped ship for the LIV Tour riches.

He is joined in a strong field by the likes of US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, 2021 Wentworth winner Billy Horschel and Spain's former US Open winner John Rahm, all of whom have had nothing to do with the LIV Tour.

England's Tommy Fleetwood, another player to shun the breakaway tour, topped the leaderboard with a superb eight-under 64, finishing with four successive birdies.

He was joined by Andy Sullivan and Norwegian Viktor Hovland who made it a three-way tie for the lead when he made a eagle on the par-five 18th.

Another Englishman, Matthew Jordan, was a shot back in fourth after six birdies on the back nine propelled him to a seven-under 65.

Former British Open champion Shane Lowry, who described the presence of LIV golfers as "disruptive", carded a 66 and held a share of fifth place along with Australian Jason Scrivener among others.

The 33-year-old Scrivener began with bogey but then made four birdies on each nine, with a blemish on the 13th, to record a six-under score.

Compatriots Adam Scott, Maverick Antcliff and Lucas Herbert are three behind him while Scott Hend shot 70.

Of the LIV Tour contingent, Austria's Bernd Wiesberger and Mexican Abraham Ancer were the highest-placed on four-under before play was suspended early and the second round on Friday called off following the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

McIlroy had said it would be "hard to stomach" playing alongside the likes of former Ryder Cup teammates Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia at Wentworth.

He was at least spared any awkwardness as he was paired for his first round with Fitzpatrick and Horschel in front of large galleries hiding under umbrellas from the heavy showers.

There was no disguising the tension in the air as the LIV Tour players began their rounds, but McIlroy let his golf do the talking as he opened with a four-under 68.

"I played okay, the rain was on and off and that made it tricky," McIlroy said. "But it's so soft, it's target practice out there. Four under was fairly pedestrian."