A RECORD TIED AT THE BRITISH OPEN
McIlroy, 21, ties record in majors with 63
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — In the 137 years since the British Open first came to St. Andrews, the Old Course rarely has been such a pushover. Rarer still was the score Rory McIlroy delivered.
Whether it was the luck of the draw or his tantalizing talent really didn’t matter.
In conditions so calm that not a hair on his considerable mop was out of place, McIlroy set off on an incredible run into the record book Thursday with a 9-under-par 63 that gave him a two-shot lead.
“Going out there this morning with no wind, you’re never going to get St. Andrews playing any easier,” McIlroy said.
It was just as easy for John Daly, a former champion at St. Andrews and now the ultimate long shot. He first energized the gallery by bashing tee shots and making enough birdies for a 66, matching his best score in the British Open.
And it was just as easy for Tiger Woods, who ran off three straight birdies late in his round for a 67.
“The old lady had no clothes on today,” Tom Watson said after a
There were 45 rounds in the 60s, 73 players broke par and the average score was under par — 71.75.
No one took advantage like McIlroy, a 21-year-old from Northern Ireland with a game beyond his years. His 63 tied the lowest score in any major, and it was only the second such score at St. Andrews in golf’s oldest championship.
Of the eight players who have shot 63 in the British Open, McIlroy is the only one to do it in the first round.
“It gives me a little bit of a buffer going into the next three days, whatever weather comes our way,” said McIlroy, who had a two-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.
It sure didn’t feel easy in the afternoon. Not long after McIlroy finished his round, the leaden skies over St. Andrews Bay brought showers to the Old Course and a breeze that picked up strength the rest of the afternoon.
Of the 16 players atop the leader-board, only Peter Hanson (66), Bradley Dredge (66), Lee Westwood (67) and Y.E. Yang (67) teed off after the wind showed up at noon.
“The difference for the early and late starters was huge,” Westwood said. “You could have kicked it round in a low score this morning. The course was defenseless, and I actually expected somebody to post a 62. I don’t think I have ever known St. Andrews as calm.”
Retief Goosen turned on his television just before 10 a.m. and saw Daly at 7 under par through 11 holes. The wind already was whipping flags when he teed off, and the two-time U.S. Open champion equated his 69 to a 66 had he played in the morning.
He bore no grudges. Such is the fickle nature of links golf.
“You’ve still got to make a score,” Goosen said. “It doesn’t matter how easy it is.”
McIlroy’s amazing run began with a drive that he hit onto the green at the 352-yard ninth hole to about 15 feet below the hole. He knocked that in for birdie and was on his way. The freckled-face kid followed with a sand wedge to 6 feet on the 10th for birdie, a 7-iron to 8 feet for birdie on the 11th, and two putts from 50 feet on the short 12th hole.
It was so low — and so there for the taking — that even after a record-tying round, he thought about the one that got away.
McIlroy was 8 under when he flew his approach dangerously close over the Road Hole bunker on the 17th, leaving him a 5-foot birdie putt. Make that, and he goes to the 357yard 18th with a shot at 62. He missed. “It sort of went through my mind that 62 would have been the lowest round in a major,” McIlroy said. “That’s probably why I missed the putt.”
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland became the eighth player to shoot a 63 in the British Open, and first to put up that score in the first round. ‘You’re never going to get St. Andrews playing any easier,’ he said.
John Daly matched his lowest score in a British Open by shooting a 6-under 66.
Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa lines up a putt on the 17th green. He opened with a 65 and is two shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.