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Rory hits the fairways at dawn's early light -- just like Tiger

RORY McILROY tore a well-thumbed leaf out of Tiger's book when he arrived at Royal St George's with the milkman yesterday morning and teed-up with Darren Clarke for his only practice round of British Open week at 6.10am.

That was one hour and 50 minutes before spectators were admitted onto the golf course and meant the two Ulstermen did not have to contend with the usual snail's pace of play on practice days at the Majors.

"I just thought today I'd get up early, get out there and try to sort of keep it a little bit low key, not that I can do that anymore," said McIlroy. "I can understand why Tiger (pictured) would go out at that time.

"It was lovely," he added. "It's funny I looked at my watch going down 14 and it hadn't even got to nine o'clock yet and I thought 'this is nice'." They walked off the course just before 10.0.

Yet once the gates opened, so many people flocked to see McIlroy, he felt unable to stop and sign autographs. "On the golf course, you don't want to be taking 15 or 20 minutes to walk from a green to the next tee," he explained. "You need to get on with your business and you just hope people understand that."

As Rory-Mania gripped the crowd, he then had to cut short his signing session at 18. "It's unbelievable," he said of the enthusiastic reaction of fans. "I really had to stop because there were people getting hurt at the front because of the fences and stuff.

"It's been an unbelievable three weeks since the US Open. It's incredible how fast your life can change."

Irish Independent