Tour News

McIlroy takes early lead Scott impresses

(Photo: Bruce Young)
Round one of the 2014 Open Championship has been played in near perfect conditions at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, the grand total of 48 player breaking par indicating that this was a day the needed to be taken advantage of.

The conditions did become a little more difficult in the afternoon, the breeze increasing and changing direction and again the scores reflected that with only three of those out after 11.00am inside the leading 18 scores.

Compared to what Open Championship venues are capable of throwing up however this was a superb day for scoring and spectating.

Rory McIlroy, as has become his want in so many events in which he has played, made a brilliant start to lead by one over Italian Matteo Manassero, with the group one further back including American Brooks Koepka, the Italian Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Ireland's Shane Lowry and world number one Adam Scott.

Amongst that group only Scott played in the afternoon conditions adding further merit to what was already an impressive opening round.

McIlroy missed a good opportunity at the first but he all but holed his approach at the par four 2nd and was on his way. He led last week's Scottish open before a second round of 78 and at St Andrews in 2010 he led the Open Championship after an opening round of 63 before a second round of 80 so the volatility is there although he look very composed today as he chases his third different major championship.

McIlroy is aware of the scrutiny but tried to downplay it after his round.

"I had a bad Friday afternoon at Augusta and just made the cut," he said after his round. "Then I started horrifically at Quail Hollow and did the same at Sawgrass. That's like three tournaments in a row so that's when I started to be conscious of it.

"I was three over par on Friday at (the BMW PGA) at Wentworth but managed to get it back but the Memorial (where he shot 63, 78) was obviously the biggest one. However, there's nothing really to it. It might just be about higher expectations going out on Friday after a low round on Thursday so I'm going to try to put those expectations aside and take one hole at a time.

"I expect to stick to my game plan and hit good shots. I know that if I execute my game plan, the low numbers are there for me to shoot."

He is enjoying the buzz of the Open however. "I mean, you enjoy every minute of it, even -- I mentioned to JP today, my caddie, walking up just the third fairway, all three of us in the group had hit good shots in. And I turned around and said, "There's nothing like the atmosphere of an Open Championship." It is different. The crowds are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it's just a pleasure to play in front of them. So, yeah, of course, you are able to enjoy it."

McIlroy was asked if recent discussions with Nicklaus had involved his increasingly well documented inconsistency. "Not particularly. He did mention it. I didn't mention it to him. He mentioned it to me. "How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78?" No, I think what we talked about was just holding a round together. And he was never afraid to make a change in the middle of the round, whether to swing or strategy, to get it back on track. We talked a little bit about that but not specifically about my previous struggles on Fridays."

McIlroy has a lot of players in close proximity to watch out for and an afternoon tee time so tomorrow will be an interesting study.

Six birdies and no bogeys on the benign but still potentially dangerous layout however tells the story of a player well in control.

Manassero turned in 34 after a bogey at the 9th but then put together five birdies on his way home, the only blemish coming when he bogeyed the 12th, but his start is his best at the Open by four shots. After a run of indifferent efforts of late, he produced a very solid tournament last week when 4th in Scotland.

Manassero fnished 13th on debut at the Open in 2009 after winning the British Amateur a month earlier but has missed his last two cuts in the event.

Adam Scott was superb in the more demanding afternoon conditions. He got his round moving in the right direction when he birdied the 4th and eagled the 5th and when he added a birdie at the 9th he had turned in 31 and was looking particularly ominous.

"It was tougher this afternoon, for sure," said Scott. "The wind kicked up a bit and the back nine played very tough coming back into it most of the time, and then in and across, and all of those kind of things make it very demanding. But positioned it off the tee really nice today.

"I can't say it could have been better, but it could have been, I guess. 18 was messy, but there were a couple of short putts and a couple of par 5s I didn't take advantage of, and from good position. But to keep pace with an early lead of Rory is important, I think.

"It's a good start. I've got a long way to go. 36 holes to put myself in a position. So I'll just be grinding the next two days. If I keep swinging well, I think I'll give myself enough chances to be there. Like I said Tuesday or Wednesday, I've kind of got it make it happen when I'm playing good at the moment.

"This has been a big focus for everyone in my crew this year. We've had our minds obviously on the other majors, but we felt we've been close the last couple of years. And obviously to win the Claret Jug is such a huge thing. Our mind has been firmly set on Hoylake this year and doing well here."

Of those expected to do well none have exactly shot themselves in the foot although Phil Mickelson's 2 over 74 suggests he has grazed himself and he will need something special from here on in. Hopefully for him he gets the same conditions that those out early today enjoyed to play his way back into the tournament.

Tiger Woods was slow to begin with bogeys at the opening two holes but the longer he played the more his game came together. His round of 69, especially given the circumstances, was encouraging for all.

Of the other Australians Marc Leishman led early and will be delighted with his four under 68 t0 get things underway. The Victorian's best to date in three previous Opens has been 60th so this represents a very positive move in the right direction.

Matt Jones, on debut at the Open, rallied back from a horror start which saw him four over through three holes to finish with an impressive 71.

John Senden also had 71, made more acceptable by the fact that he played in the afternoon half of the field.

Rhein Gibson did superbly well, bouncing back from four consecutive bogeys and making the turn in 41 to finish at even par. Gibson, from Lismore in NSW, is playing his first major championship and has done well. Gibson led the one putts stats on day one.

Jason Day never really got going and is at 1 over 73, Brett Rumford three over and Bryden McPherson dropped a massive 16 shots in nine holes through the middle of his round for an opening 90.

The cut appears at this stage as if it will fall around the 1 or 2 over mark although that will be dependent on the conditions tomorrow which are predicted to be fine and warm although breezy.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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