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McIlroy produces stunning display

Rory McIlroy today equalled the lowest ever round in a major championship with a stunning nine-under-par 63 in the first round of the Open Championship at St Andrews.

McIlroy took advantage of a defenceless Old Course to card seven birdies and an eagle, playing the last 10 holes in eight under for a three-shot clubhouse lead over 1995 champion John Daly and Scotland's Andrew Coltart.

Tiger Woods was also ominously lurking on six under with four to play, but McIlroy was deservedly hogging the limelight after a superb display which justified his position as pre-tournament second favourite behind the world number one.

The 21-year-old's effort means there have now been 24 rounds of 63 in major championship history - McIlroy is the 22nd player to achieve the feat - and the first in the Open since Nick Faldo and Payne Stewart 17 years ago.

Those rounds were seven under par at Royal St George's, McIlroy joining England's Paul Broadhurst (St Andrews, 1990) as the only players to shoot rounds of nine under in the Open.

McIlroy admitted he had been inspired by seeing compatriot Graeme McDowell win the US Open at Pebble Beach last month.

"It's given me a lot of belief knowing a good friend of mine could go out and win a major, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to do the same as well," he said.

"Hopefully I can keep it going over the next few days. You really needed to take advantage of the conditions this morning and thankfully I was able to do that. We will see what the weather does tomorrow."

The early starters were certainly making the most of the change in weather from the strong wind and rain which forced the cancellation of yesterday's Champions Challenge.

Daly's 66 could easily have been much better, the 44-year-old lying seven under with seven to play only to see four birdie putts catch the edge of the hole and stay out.

"I'm not too disappointed but I hit four putts coming in which I thought I had made. I left some out there," admitted Daly, who had missed the cut in eight of his 12 Open appearances since lifting the Claret Jug 15 years ago.

"This is only the seventh or eighth tournament I've been healthy to play in the last three years and I'm starting to get some confidence back in my game."

Playing partner Coltart birdied the 18th to match Daly's 66, the Scot playing his first Open since 2002 after coming through qualifying at Sunningdale.