Rory McIlroy one behind at South African Open as Nick Faldo shines on rare start
|South African Open, Glendower Golf Club, Johannesburg|
|- 6 T Fisher Jr (SA), K Horne (SA) -5 R McIlroy (NI), T Aiken (SA), D Burmester (SA), JL Smith (Eng), J Kruger (SA) Selected: -4 M Foster (Eng), O Fisher (Eng); -3 S Dyson (Eng); -2 N Faldo (Eng), D Clarke (NI), Drysdale (Sco); +2 E Els (SA)|
World number two Rory McIlroy is one off the pace at the South African Open after firing a five-under-par 67 in his first competitive round of 2017.
It left the Northern Irishman a stroke behind home players Trevor Fisher Jnr and Keith Horne in Johannesburg.
Experimenting with new clubs after Nike withdrew from the market, McIlroy produced a couple of superb late recoveries following wayward drives.
Nick Faldo, making a rare Tour start, opened with an impressive 70.
"I was a bit adventurous on my second nine," admitted McIlroy, who hopes strong performances this week and next week in Abu Dhabi could see him replacing Jason Day at the top of world rankings rankings by the end of January.
"As my round drew to a close, I had to scramble on a few holes and did my bit by salvaging some pars. I played well, giving myself birdie chances."
McIlroy expressed satisfaction with his new clubs after notching seven birdies at the 7,100-yard Glendower Golf Club course.
"It is nice to card a 67 in my first competitive round with new clubs. I am sure I will become accustomed to them. There will be some chopping and changing as time goes by."
South African Fisher - 442 places below McIlroy in the world rankings - had a run of seven birdies in eight holes in his 66, which was matched late in the day by another home player Horne.
England's Jordan L Smith, who graduated from the Challenge Tour after last season, joined McIlroy in the group on five under which included other home players Dean Burmester and Thomas Aiken.
Fifty-nine-year-old Faldo, playing in his first European Tour event since 2014, brought back memories of his glory years in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a typically steady three-birdie 70.
The six-time major winner dropped his only stroke of the day at the first before picking up shots at the seventh, 15th and 16th.
Faldo was joined in a share of 26th place on 70 by 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, who finished with three successive birdies, and the highest placed Scot, David Drysdale.