McIlroy, 21, ties record in ma­jors with 63

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Fer­gu­son

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

1-over 73.

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.

Jon Su­per

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.

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