Cameron Young sets the early pace at The Open

Round 1

Rory McIlroy sits just two shots off the lead after the opening round of The 150th Open, as Tiger Woods struggled on his St Andrews return.

McIlroy, who missed his Open title defence through injury when it was last held on the iconic Old Course in 2015, made an impressive start to his bid for a fifth major title by posting a six-under 66 on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman holed a 55-footer on his opening hole and made three consecutive birdies from the fourth to reach the turn in 32, with McIlroy adding another at the 12th before carding his only bogey of the day at the next when a poor chip ran some 50 yards past the hole.

McIlroy responded by taking advantage of the par-five next and picking up a shot at the par-four last, with the closing birdie closing the gap on clubhouse leader Cameron Young and seeing him post his lowest first-round score at The Open since he won the event in 2014.

“Yeah, fantastic start,” McIlroy said. “Just what you hope will happen when you’re starting off your week. I did everything that you’re supposed to do around St Andrews. It’s another good start at a major, three in a row for me now, and I’m looking forward to the next few days.”

Two-time champion Padraig Harrington was next-best among the Irish contingent after a fine round of 69 on the thoroughly browned out St Andrews in the evening.

McIlroy’s quest for a fifth major got off to a perfect start.

Harrington, conqueror of Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale all those years ago, sits in the pack on -3 in a tie for 13th. Birdies on the 2nd, 9th, 12th and 14th, with a bogey on the 8th left him at -3 approaching the closing holes.

An irksome three-putt from the front of the 16th dented his round but he masterfully escaped trouble at the infamous Road Hole, dinking a perfect chip from the left rough up to a few feet. At 18, he drilled a three-wood to pin high, two-putting from adjacent to the green to card a round of 69.

Shane Lowry, meanwhile, battled back from a nightmarish start to card an even par round of 72, leaving him tied-56th on a day of low-scoring.

Lowry was rocked by an early double-bogey on the 2nd after firing his drive into a gorse bush down the right-hand side and he fell back to +3 following a bogey on the 4th.

However, birdies on the 5th, 9th and 10th saw him clamber back to even par. A disappointing bogey on 13 was swiftly followed by a birdie on 14.

“I got off to the worst possible start and fought back well,” the 2019 champion said afterwards. “After a bad tee shot on the second I didn’t really do much wrong after that. I’m pretty happy with how I’m playing.

“I’m not down in the dumps by any means about my day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not middle of the field. It’s better than middle of the field.”

Cameron Young’s flawless 64 gives him a great platform to build on.

Seamus Power, starting early, is a stroke further back on one-over par, birdies on 1, 9, 10 and 18 being cancelled out by three bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-4 12th.

The late-starting Irish pair of David Carey and Ronan Mullarney finished in declining light, the latter holing out for a par as part of the final group at 10.25pm.

Castleknock’s Carey birdied the final hole to card a composed even par round of 72, his four bogeys being cancelled out by birdies at 1, 5, 9 and 18.

Galway man Mullarney reached the turn in 33, his outward nine decorated by an eagle at the par-5 5th hole. However, four bogeys on the back nine saw him fall back to +1 following a creditable 73.

2011 champion Darren Clarke carded a seven-over par round of 79.

Cameron Young took advantage of the calmer morning conditions to make the dream start to his Open debut, where he threatened a record-low major round on his way to a bogey-free 64.

The American, who has five top-three finishes on the PGA Tour already this season, carded seven birdies in his opening 12 holes and bounced back from missed opportunities from close range at the 14th and 15th to add another on his final hole.

Defending Champion Collin Morikawa could only manage an even par opening round.

Cameron Smith sits three strokes back after an opening-round 67 and Viktor Hovland birdied his last three holes to close a four-under 68, with the Norwegian joined four off the pace by the likes of Dustin Johnson and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Amateur Barclay Brown and compatriot Lee Westwood are also four behind, with Xander Schauffele posting a three-under 69 and Ian Poulter carding the same score after holing an incredible 160-foot eagle at the par-four ninth, while the marquee names in the later starters largely struggled to threaten the lead.

Robert Dinwiddie was the pick of the afternoon wave as he posted a five-under 67, with Padraig Harrington carding an opening-round 69 and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick starting with a level-par 72, while Tiger Woods faces a battle to make the cut after a six-over 78.

Woods’ hopes of a fairy-tale success suffered a nightmare start when he found water with his approach into the par-four first and then two-putted from inside five feet for a double-bogey six, with the world No 994 making successive bogeys from the third and double-bogey the seventh.

Back to-back birdies around the turn were undone by three-putt bogeys at the 11th and 13th, with a close-range gain at the par-five 14th cancelled out by a missed par-save at the 16th to leave Woods 14 strokes off the lead.

“Looks like I’m going to have to shoot 66 tomorrow to have a chance,” Woods admitted. “So obviously it has been done. Guys did it today. And that’s my responsibility tomorrow is to go ahead and do it.”

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