By Brian Keogh
Rory McIlroy failed to take advantage of a sensational start to the UBS Hong Kong Open.
The curly haired Holywood teen, 18, scorched to four under par after just seven holes at Fanling but finished the day seven behind leader KJ Choi after a one under par 69.
After reaching the turn in four under, McIlroy crashed back to level par after bogeys at the 10th and 15th and a double bogey six at the 16th.
A birdie at the 17th repaired some of the damage but his 69 was only good enough for a share of 50th on a day when the scoring was as hot as the weather.
McIlroy said: "It’s a little disappointing to finish the way I did because I was four under after seven.
"It’s just that the back nine just jumped up to bite me a bit but I know I can go out there and shoot a good score, so if I just need to hang in there and I should be able to achieve that.
"This course is on for a good score and that’s the goal now tomorrow."
PGA Tour star Choi had nine birdies in a brilliant 62 to lead by a shot from Welshman Garry Houston with Gary Murphy tied for eighth after a four under par 66.
Despite the late arrival of his clubs, Graeme McDowell started with a 67 to share 18th place while Paul McGinley matched Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo with a 68.
Murphy bogeyed the tough 18th after a poor drive but was still delighted to survive the high temperatures.
The less than slimline Kilkenny man joked: "It's warm out there. It is not 'salad-dodger' weather anyway.
"But I played lovely. I got off to a good steady start after getting pars at the first two before getting a good birdie at three with a three iron onto the green.
"I chipped in on four from short and then made a good birdie at eight to get to three under, then hit a bad second shot on nine to drop a shot.
"But two-under at the turn was a steady start and I holed a couple of nice putts coming in, including a 40 footer on 11 and a 25 footer on 15 to get to five under.
"You're thinking of getting to six or seven under at that stage but at 18 I pushed the driver right, had to come out sideways and couldn't get up and down.
"Overall it's a good start to the four days, the scoring here over the first few days is quite sharp but the course then dries out.
"It was even drying out while we were out there, which makes scoring difficult especially on the front nine, so 66 is very pleasing."
McDowell was happy with his 67 after a nervous wait for his clubs to arrive in Hong Kong.
McDowell's bag went missing in transit and he was relieved to be reunited with them on Wednesday night.
The Ulsterman, who had an albatross two on his way to tied fourth in the Volvo Masters two weeks ago, knows that he will have to make his clubs talk this week if he is to pick up his third European Tour win.
McDowell said: "I've played lovely golf the last six months but there's plenty of room for improvement out there.
"It could have been a bit lower and there are some low scores out there. I think it's probably going to take anything up to 16 under par to win this week. But three under is a good start."