PA Rory McIlroy had a solid opening round.

Rory McIlroy on the prowl at The Open with early leader Young in sights

McIlroy is two shots off the early pace after an impressive opening 66 at St Andrews.

RORY McILROY TOOK outright second spot at the end of his opening round at The Open after he shot a 66 to put him on six-under par.

The Holywood native is just two adrift of leader Cameron Young at St Andrews, while Shane Lowry is on level par after an opening round of 72.

Seamus Power finished with a birdie but it was only enough to see him sign for a one-over par 73 and a share of 73rd place.

McIlroy was the favourite for the Claret Jug coming into the week and he started strongly to sit at five-under for the day after 14 holes, before a closing birdie on the 18th sent him one shot clear of Cameron Smith who finished on five-under 67.

“I played well, very solid,” McIlroy told Sky Sports afterwards. “Everyone knows on this golf course that you have to make your score going out, and I did that

“I started off tremendously with a bonus at the first, a little bit of an adrenaline rush with that second shot and hit it a bit far. Birdied the par five, birdied a couple of the shorter par fours with wedges in my hand.

“And then on the back nine, even though it’s downwind, it go so trickt that you pick off a couple. I birdied the holes that I should have birdied today and only made one mistake.

“The way this golf course is playing, how firm and bouncey and tricky it is, it’s all about limiting your mistakes and only one bogey out there was good.”

the-open-2022-day-one-st-andrews PA Shane Lowry putts on the sixth. PA

Of the Irish contingent among the afternoon starters, Pádraig Harrington is one-under through seven; David Carey is one-under through three; and Ronan Mullarney is one-over through three.

Darren Clarke is six-over through the first 11 holes of his round.

American Young had earlier stormed into the lead with an eight-under-par 64. The 25-year-old produced a flawless round featuring no bogeys and eight birdies, including five on the outward nine and one at the 18th.

Ranked 32nd in the world, Young finished tied third in this year’s PGA Championship and has now put himself in a strong position to go on and be a contender into the weekend.

“I think any time you’re around the lead in a major championship or any PGA Tour event, frankly, you get more and more comfortable every time,” said Young, who first played the Old Course with his parents aged 13.

“Whether I’m leading by three or one or four back after today, I’ll sleep just fine.”

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