2010 US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Fowler set the early pace at the OneAsia event carding a four-under-par 67 before Korea Republic’s Yang matched the American’s tally, despite being forced to battle increased wind at the tight course.
World number three McIlroy, who finished third in 2009, carded seven birdies but twice found the water en route to a 68. He sits tied for third at three under alongside Korea’s Hong Soon-sang and his amateur compatriot Lee Soo-min.
“I birdied the first hole of the day and that helped lot. I played well and enjoyed the round,” said world number 43 Yang, who overcame a 10 shot final round deficit last year to win a second Kolon Korea Open title.
Twenty two year old Fowler is still searching for the maiden title of his career.
“I played well and drove the ball well which is important. I made a few birdies, but unfortunately I didn’t play the par fives as well as I had hoped and played them two over, so that is something to obviously look to improve,” said Fowler, who is currently world number 36.
McIlroy, meanwhile, had his chance to claim at least a share of the first round lead, but after first finding water at the 11th and being forced to settle for a double-bogey six, the 22-year-old paid the price for attempting to drive the final green and dropped his fourth shot of the round.
“I felt like I played well. I started nicely and I was three under through nine holes, but I had a bad couple of holes on the back nine at 10 and 11 with a bogey and a double bogey,” he said.
The leading Aussie is Andrew Tschudin who shot a 69 to be two strokes behind the leaders. Bronson La’Cassie was a stroke further back after a 70 while Stephen Allan finished with 71.
The 2011 Korean Open is being telecast in Australia on One HD.