McIlroy in contention at Wentworth as Bjerregaard sets the early pace

Lucas Bjerregaard leads the BMW PGA Championship, but Rory McIlroy is an ominous presence at the top of the leaderboard.

Rory McIlroy in action   -  Getty Images

Rory McIlroy made a promising start to the BMW PGA Championship and was just two strokes back of leader Lucas Bjerregaard at the end of the opening round

The Northern Irishman has struggled for form since falling away in the last round of the Masters last month, finishing in a tie for 16th at the Wells Fargo Championship before missing the cut at the Players Championship.

But the four-time major champion was in good nick at Wentworth on Thursday, signing for a five-under 67 to sit in a tie for fourth, just two behind Bjerregaard.

McIlroy, winner of the event in 2014, made seven birdies and just two bogeys. He had the chance to improve his score at the last when a stroke of fortune after hitting the trees set up a two-footer for birdie, only to miss the putt.

"I played well," McIlroy told the European Tour's official website. "I played a lot better today than I have done the last couple of weeks, so it's a good step in the right direction.

"I think I did everything pretty well. I drove the ball much better and put the ball in play off the tee a lot more than I've done the last couple of weeks, so that's been really good."

Bjerregaard's card was blemish free, with the Dane making four birdies on his opening nine and a further three after the turn.

South African duo Darren Fichardt and Dean Burmester both sit one back, the former going bogey free while the latter recovered from an error at the third with five birdies and an eagle at the par-four 15th thanks to a 169-yard approach landing in the cup.

English trio Richard Bland, Sam Horsfield and Matthew Fitzpatrick are all level with McIlroy at five under. Bland has made just two cuts this year, but spoke of his personal issues away from the course after his brother fell ill late in 2017.

"My brother got very seriously ill in December and was in a coma for nearly a month over Christmas," he said. 

"Fortunately, he seems on the way to recovery. He's still recovering and he's here today. It's great to see him walking around.

"We're a close family anyway and it's brought us even closer together and it just makes you think, even though I've had a tough time on the course, life isn't that bad at the end of the day."