By Tony Jimenez
VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - World number two Rory McIlroy was blown off course by unseasonally cold weather at Wentworth on Thursday, bogeying five of the last six holes to sink to a two-over 74 in the PGA Championship first round.
The 24-year-old Northern Irishman made an encouraging start to the European Tour's flagship event and was three-under after 12 holes but a series of late blunders meant he walked off the 18th green a frustrated youngster.
"It was one of those rounds I let slip through my fingers," McIlroy told reporters after finishing eight strokes adrift of clubhouse leader James Kingston of South Africa.
"It could have been something good and I could have been near the top of the leaderboard but instead I am where I am."
McIlroy said the chilly eight-degree temperatures and winds gusting up to 20mph combined to make it a tough day for scoring at the long 7,302-yard West Course on the outskirts of London.
"The thing that gets me is the cold and I was wearing mittens all day," he added after finishing with bogey sixes at the 17th and 18th.
"Your body just doesn't feel the way it usually does and we are so used to playing in warm conditions these days. This is a little bit of a change," said McIlroy who plays a lot of his golf in the United States.
"I hit a couple of loose tee shots on 13 and 17, three-putted 14 and then got a bit unlucky on 18 when my tee shot went through the fairway a little too far and into the bushes."
McIlroy, still waiting for his first victory of 2013 after winning the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic last year, limped home in 41 strokes.
"I didn't really miss a shot for the first 12 holes and I feel that just now I'm not getting as much out of my rounds as I should do," he said.
"Maybe it's just a matter of not letting the bad shots affect me as much. I don't know what I can put it down to."
Playing partner and close friend Graeme McDowell was equally unhappy with his matching 74, a round capped by a double-bogey seven at the 18th after he found water.
"I don't play this course well," said the Northern Irishman. "It needs to be sort of fiery for me to have a chance.
"I find it kind of long and a bit of a slog really. It's a tough course and I knew anything around par today would have been a good effort."
McDowell said the harsh British winter had softened up the putting surfaces.
"My ball-striking wasn't bad and I putted all right but let's be honest the greens are slow," he explained. "It's been tough to get them up to speed.
"It's a standard Wentworth performance for me unfortunately. It's not really my happiest hunting ground," said McDowell who won last week's World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.
"I only made one birdie today and that's not really good enough. I feel a bit beaten up right now."
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)