GOOD START: Javier Colomo putts on the 10th green during the second day of the Hong Kong Open on Friday. He ended the first day on top of the leaderboard. Picture: REUTERS
GOOD START: Javier Colomo putts on the 10th green during the second day of the Hong Kong Open on Friday. He ended the first day on top of the leaderboard. Picture: REUTERS

HONG KONG — Defending champion Rory McIlroy finished nine shots behind Spanish leader Javier Colomo after the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday.

McIlroy admitted to feeling lethargic as he carded a three-over-par 73.

Colomo, ranked 506th, recorded a career-best six-under 64 in overcast and windy conditions on the Fanling course.

That earned him a one-stroke lead over fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australia’s Andrew Dodt, who scored 65s.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was a member of the European Tour before the 23-year-old McIlroy was born, shot a 65. Should he win his third Hong Kong Open on Sunday at the age of 48 years and 318 days, he would become the oldest winner on the European Tour.

The record is held by Irishman Des Smyth, who was 48 years and 34 days old when he won the 2001 Madeira Island Open.

Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal moved into a share of fourth place with a 66.

Colomo started out by plying his trade on the European Challenge Tour but lost his playing rights, and so he went to the Asian Tour School last year.

The 28-year-old has had three top-10 finishes this year and has earned promotion into bigger tournaments next year.

"Now I am 33rd in the Asian rankings and that’s perfect because next year I will be playing in all of the tournaments cosanctioned with the European Tour," he said.

Jimenez, meanwhile, said with a smile: "I am like a good bottle of rioja because I just get better and better with age."

Olazabal also put himself in the frame to end a seven-year winless drought on the tour in playing alongside Jimenez, being among five players signing for 67s.

Olazabal also won in Hong Kong, in 2002.

McIlroy bogeyed his first hole and made his only birdie at the par-five third hole. He dropped a shot at the sixth after being forced to play his second shot left-handed from beside a bush, and bogeyed 14 and 15.

"I just lacked a bit of energy out there, I felt a bit lethargic and mentally more than physically, if I am being honest," he said.

"I bogeyed the first but then just got more frustrated as the round went on. I just felt like I was hitting some decent shots and just not really converting any chances for birdies and I just let it go a little bit." McIlroy believes he is just going through a comedown after securing the tour money title last weekend in Singapore.

"I suppose after last week, and winning the Race to Dubai title, it was always going to be a bit of a letdown," he said.

"I feel as though I am playing well enough but I just need to get my head and the golf to match up and I’ll be okay ."

Colomo discovered that everything was in synch in his Hong Kong Open debut.

He began his round from the 11th hole and after 10 straight pars he stormed to the top of the board with six birdies over his closing eight holes.

Sapa-AP, Reuters

Leading scores

Javier Colomo, (ESP) 29-35-64 Miguel Angel Jimenez, (ESP) 33-32-65 Andrew Dodt, (AUS) 32-33-65 Jose Maria Olazabal, (ESP) 33-33-66 Fredrik Andersson-Hed, (SWE) 32-34-66 YE Yang, (KOR) 31-35-66 Lorenzo Gagli, (ITA) 31-35-66 Liang-wei Zhang, (CHI) 33-33-67 Michael Campbell, (NZL) 33-34-67 Joel Sjoholm, (SWE) 35-32-67 Mardan Mamat, (SGP) 32-35-67 Gregory Bourdy, (FRA) 33-34-67 Marcus Fraser, (AUS) 34-33-67 Matteo Manassero, (ITA) 34-33-67 Simon Khan, (ENG) 33-34-67 David Horsey, (ENG) 33-34-67 Simon Dyson, (ENG) 34-34-68 Daisuke Kataoka, (JAP) 32-36-68 Kwanchai Tannin, (THA) 34-34-68 Gary Boyd, (ENG) 32-36-68 Scott Hend, (AUS) 33-35-68 Peter Lawrie, (IRL) 34-34-68 David Howell, (ENG) 32-36-68