Open Championship: Rory McIlroy shoots bogey-free 66 to lead after first round
Last Updated: 17/07/14 9:43pm
Rory McIlroy enjoyed another flying start as he carded a flawless 66 to lead by one after the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
The Northern Irishman made full use of benign early conditions at a sun-drenched Hoylake to post a bogey-free six-under-par round that saw him finish the day one ahead of Italy’s Matteo Manassero and two clear of group of seven players that includes world No 1 Adam Scott, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and the Molinari brothers Edoardo and Francesco.
Tiger Woods, champion at Hoylake back in 2006 and making only his second competitive outing since back surgery, showed encouraging signs with a three-under 69 that left him in a tie for ninth.
Although the sun remained a fixture throughout the day, a fresh breeze ensured conditions were markedly trickier for the later starters and it showed in the scoring.
Only Scott, Shane Lowry (68), Boo Weekley (69) and Yoshinobu Tsukada (69) were able to break 70 in the afternoon, while the likes of Bubba Watson (76), Ernie Els (79) and defending champion Phil Mickelson (74), who played together, finished well down the field.
But there were no such problems for McIlroy who produced his second lowest round in tournament, bettered only by his 63 at St Andrews in 2010.
Just as he did at the Scottish Open seven days ago McIlroy now holds the first-round lead, but will be conscious of a worrying trend this year that has seen him fall away badly in a number of second rounds, including at Royal Aberdeen last week when he followed an opening 64 with a 78.
"It's another great start and, yeah, looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow,” he said afterwards. "Whenever I go out and play on Thursdays there're not really many expectations.
"When you go back out on Friday after a good score you know what you can do, so you're going out with some expectations compared to Thursday. I think I've just got to approach it like that, start off trying to hit solid shots the first few holes and play my way into the round, just like I did today."
First round leaderboard
(GB & Ire unless stated)
-6 R McIlroy
-5 M Manassero (Ita)
-4 J Furyk (US)
-4 S Garcia (Spa)
-4 B Koepka (US)
-4 S Lowry
-4 E Molinari (Ita)
-4 F Molinari (Ita)
-4 A Scott (Aus)
Click here for collated scores
The 25-year-old produced a sumptuous display of ball-striking throughout as he fired birdies at the second, fifth and sixth to be out in 32 and then added three more coming home on the 10th, 12th and 16th.
Slow start for Tiger
By contrast Woods – who missed the cut in his comeback event at Congressional last month – looked distinctly rusty and listless early on as he bogeyed his opening two holes, equalling the amount he made in the first 36 holes of his 2006 triumph.
But a crucial eight-foot putt saved par at the fourth and, after then making birdie at the next, he found grew into the round, coming to life on the back nine with five birdies in six holes between the 11th and 16th, including holing from off the green at 11.
"I knew I could do it. That's why it was so important for me to play at Congressional," he said. "At Congressional I made some terrible mistakes mentally. My decisions weren't very crisp and I wasn't decisive enough. Today was totally different and consequently I shot a better score.
"I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, I'm getting more explosive. The ball is starting to travel again and those are all positive things."
The negative thing as far as Woods was concerned was a repeat of the distractions in 2006 from spectators' phones and cameras which led to a ban the following year.
He backed off his second shot to the 18th twice, stopping midway through his downswing the first time, and said: "There were a lot of cameras and we were backing off a lot of shots, it was tough. Unfortunately people don't put the phones on silent and some of the professional guys were getting on the trigger a little early."
Alongside Woods at three-under are fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, Marc Leishman of Australia and a trio of Japanese players; Tsukada, Hideki Matsuyama and Koumei Oda.
Lee Westwood finished the day as the leading English challenger following a one-under round of 71 that mixed four birdies and three bogeys.
Pre-tournament favourite Justin Rose had to settle for a level-par 72 having at one stage got himself to two-under, while neither Ian Poulter or Luke Donald could break par either as they both signed for rounds of 73.
One shot further back alongside Mickelson at two-over were the likes of Graeme McDowell, two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey, Victor Dubuisson, Brandt Snedeker and Ryo Ishikawa.