RORY MCILROY HAS set the early pace with a “perfect round” on day one of the Open Championship.
McIlroy shot six birdies to take the clubhouse lead at Royal Liverpool with a bogey-free 66.
The world number eight leads by one shot from Matteo Manassero with five players — Brooks Koepka, Eduardo and Francesco Molinari, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia — a further shot back on four-under.
“It’s sort of does constitute the perfect round, especially in the first round of an Open,” the 25-year-old told BBC Sport afterwards. “I couldn’t ask for any more.”
I stuck to my gameplan, focused on the par fives and tried to pick up other shots. For the most part my golf ball was under control and I’m very happy.
The challenge now for McIlroy is to avoid another of the “Freaky Fridays” that have become his Achilles’ heel. His second-round scoring average is one of the lowest on the PGA Tour, ranked 181st out of 190.
Last week he set a new course record to lead the Scottish Open after the first day but followed up with second-round 78 and plummeted down the leaderboard.
“I’m playing well, swinging the club really nicely, holed some nice putts and I’ll try to continue to do that and hopefully have another solid round tomorrow,” he added.
I won’t approach it differently.
The news was almost as good for Shane Lowry who – despite being one-over through nine – finished with a 68 and a share of third place.
The 27-year old Offaly native took an aggressive approach on the back nine and it paid dividends despite the worsening conditions.
He shares third spot with no fewer than six other golfers including Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia world number one, Adam Scott.
Tiger Woods, playing in his first Major of the season, is three shots off the lead. Woods, who started his round with back-to-back bogeys, fired five birdies in six holes on the back nine to finish on three-under-par.
Darren Clarke finished the day on level par 72 while Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell disappointed with rounds of two-over 74.
– First published 15.05