Rory McIlroy celebrated making a fantastic start to the “fiddliest” Open of his career as his delayed return to St Andrews proved well worth the wait.
America’s Cameron Young held the lead thanks to firing eight birdies in a flawless 64, a score only McIlroy himself has beaten in the opening round of an Open Championship on the Old Course.
McIlroy’s 63 came back in 2010 and was followed by an 80 in terrible weather, while an ankle injury suffered playing football prevented him from bidding to retain the Claret Jug at the same venue in 2015.
The four-time major winner admitted this week therefore felt like the title defence he never had and he enjoyed an ideal start, holing from 55 feet for birdie on the first and making seven in total in his 66, the same score he shot to begin his wire-to-wire victory at Hoylake.
In stark contrast, 15-time major winner Tiger Woods started badly, hitting his approach from a fairway divot into the Swilcan Burn at the first, and went on to card just three birdies in a six-over-par round of 78 – completed six hours and eight minutes after teeing off.
Shot of the day
St Andrews’ famous Road Hole has caused countless calamities for players over the years but Yorkshireman John Parry made it look simple. Having taken a tight line down the right-hand side, close to the Old Course Hotel, he had 195 yards to the flag. Bouncing his approach in short of the green it rolled up to within a foot of the pin for a tap-in birdie.
Round of the day
Cameron Young – 64
The Open debutant, whose only experience of the Old Course was in the St Andrews Links Trophy almost a decade ago, belied his inexperience to lay down an early marker. Five birdies on the front nine saw him go out in 31 and he gained three further shots – although he also missed a couple of relatively short putts – that saw him establish a two-stroke lead at the top.
Tweet of the day
Statistic of the day
McIlroy is the first player to begin two different Open Championships at St Andrews with rounds of 66 or lower (2010, 2022).
The 13th played as the toughest hole, yielding just two birdies all day (Peter Morrison/AP)
The 465-yard par-four 13th played as the toughest hole, yielding just two birdies all day, with 58 bogeys and 12 double-bogeys or worse resulting in a scoring average of 4.51.
The 356-yard par-four 18th was easily reachable off the tee. Seventy-four players made birdie, there were two eagles and just two bogeys for a scoring average of 3.47. (* Four groups still to complete their rounds)
Friday’s key tee times
Leader Cameron Young will tee off at 13.26 on day two (Jane Barlow/PA)
8.25am: Scottie Scheffler, Tyrrell Hatton, Joaquin Niemann.
9.58am: Tiger Woods, Matt Fitzpatrick, Max Homa.
1.04pm: Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka, Seamus Power.
1.26pm: Cameron Young, KH Lee, Robert MacIntyre
2.59pm: Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele.
Cloudy with outbreaks of rain, more likely early on with a chance of a shower in the afternoon but tending to stay dry. Winds will be between 5mph to 10mph, with gusts up to 15mph.