Saturday 14 December 2019

McIlroy 'looking forward' to more after British Open early lead

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off the 5th during day one of the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off the 5th during day one of the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club

Rory McIlroy posted an opening round score of 66 at the British Open to claim an early outright lead at Royal Liverpool.

The Irishman produced some stunning approach play - almost holing his second at the second - to record three birdies in his first six holes and currently sits top of the leaderboard at -6 , one shot clear of Italian Matteo Manassero.

McIlroy , who has suffered the Friday blues in more than one round this season, has no worries about what lies ahead tomorrow.

"Any time you shoot 66 at the Open Championship, you're going to be pleased," he said.

"We had perfect scoring conditions out there this morning. There wasn't much wind early on and there were plenty of opportunities to make birdies and I was able to take a few of them.

"It's another great start and, yeah, looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.

"Whenever I go out and play on Thursdays there's not really many expectations. You're going out there and you're trying to find a rhythm and you're just trying to play your way into the round.

"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, and start off trying to hit solid shots the first few holes and play my way into the round, just like I did today."

Low scoring dominated the first day of the 143rd Open Championship - with even a rusty Tiger Woods getting in on the act.

Woods bogeyed his first two holes - he began with a dropped shot when he won his third and last Claret Jug on this course in 2006 - but clawed things back with an impressive back nine.

The 14-time major winner, playing only his second event since a back operation in March, reached the turn in at one over after holing a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-five fifth but then proceeded to card five birdies in six holes.

It was a run spoiled only by a bogey at the 454-yard 14th after finding the left rough off the tee, eliciting a swear word for which Woods has become all too famous for in recent years.

A 40-foot birdie attempt at the 17th brushed the edge of the hole and, after encountering one or two disturbances from a phalanx of photographers as he attempted to reach the par-five 18th with his second, he closed out with a 69 after escaping with par from a greenside bunker.

Considering his two previous rounds were a 74 and 75 as he missed the cut at the Quicken Loans National last month, Woods will have been pleased with his day's work.

Woods insisted he had no doubts he could produce a performance like that in only his third round back after his operation.

"I knew I could do it. That's why I was telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional," he said.

"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.

"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. "

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