McIlroy steps into Tiger's marquee spot at British Open
RORY McILROY'S status as the biggest draw at the British Open was rubber-stamped by the Royal and Ancient yesterday as they handed the US Open champion Tiger Woods' traditional slot on the timesheet for Thursday's first round.
McIlroy (22) leapt into the void vacated by the injured Woods at the top of the game with his record-breaking first Major victory at the US Open at Congressional.
Now the hugely popular Ulsterman has been named with American buddy Rickie Fowler, also 22, and South African Ernie Els (41) in the marquee group which tees off at 9.09 Thursday morning (2.10 Friday).
This is nine minutes after the BBC go on air and, after the usual introductions, the tee shots played by Els, McIlroy and Fowler in the show group will be the first live action broadcast from Royal St George's.
Usually, this time has been reserved for Woods, but Tiger has been sidelined for two months since abandoning the Players Championship with knee ligament strain and Achilles tendon trouble.
Had Tiger, now down to world No 19, made it to Sandwich, McIlroy still might have played in the marquee group after thrilling all golf with his stunning effort at Congressional, not forgetting his sizzling first-round 63 at St Andrews last year.
Though given the 'Tiger treatment' by the Championship Committee, the vast chasm between the fresh-faced McIlroy and sombre Woods was heavily underscored last night when the Ulsterman turned down the offer of added security.
"I asked Rory if he wanted extra security and he said no, explaining he wished to remain accessible to the fans," explained McIlroy's agent Chubby Chandler.