Could Northern Ireland make it two-for-two on the last two major golfing championships? A month after Northern Irish journeyman Graeme McDowell captured the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, his compatriot, wunkerkind Rory McIlroy, ripped off a historic 9-under 63 for the first round lead at the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews.
The 21-year old McIlroy is already the youngest PGA Tour winner since Tiger Woods after taking the Quail Hollow Championship in May with a scintillating final round 62, and if he can hold onto his lead at the British Open, he'd be even younger than Tiger Woods was when he won his first major title in dominating fashion at the 1997 Masters. In other words, we may be witnessing the coming out of the next big golfing star. McIlroy began his day at St. Andrews rather innocuously, sitting at 1-under through eight holes, before annihilating the next seven holes to the tune of 7-under, and finishing his tour de force round with a birdie on the 18th hole. McIlroy's round of 63 matched a host of others as the best score ever in a round at the British Open.
McIlory, however, still hasn't quite run away from the rest of the field. Journeyman Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa finished two shots off the pace at 7-under, good for sole possession of second place, while a pair of former British Open champions -- at St. Andrews no less -- weren't far behind either. The seemingly constant reclamation project that is John Dally (who won at St. Andrews in 1995) fired up the way-back-machine to record a 6-under 66, putting him in a tie for third with Andrew Coltart, Steven Tiley, Bradley Dredge and Peter Hanson, while noted golf enthusiast Tiger Woods (who's won two of his three British Open titles at St. Andrews, in 2000 and 2005) was a shot behind that at 5-under in a tie for eighth place. St. Andrew's expansive, forgiving fairways and downright placid weather made for ideal conditions for the accuracy-challenged thumpers in Daly and Woods, and they took advantage.
Phil Mickelson was among the few big names who didn't go low on this mild first day at The Open Championship. Lefty gave himself some ground to make up in the second round after only shooting a 1-over 73 on Thursday.
For more on the 2010 British Open, check out our golf blog, Waggle Room.