Rory McIlroy drives green on 436-yard hole, sets course record at Royal Aberdeen

Rory McIlroy smashes the track record at Royal Aberdeen as Phil Mickelson and Stacy Lewis get off to strong starts in their title defense in the U.K.

Rory McIlroy overcame his professed dislike of foul-weather golf by conquering the conditions and the Scottish Open field to set a course record at Royal Aberdeen with an opening-round 7-under 64 Thursday. In fact, McIlroy used those conditions to his advantage at one point during a birdie streak on Thursday, bombing his ball up into the wind at the links course's 436-yard 13th hole and driving the green. It was the most impressive moment during another blistering opening round for McIlroy.

McIlroy, playing in a cool and windy atmosphere came in a couple of hours after Kristoffer Broberg, who, with his own stellar 65, held the course record until the two-time major champion dunked his final par putt on the 18th. Broberg, from Sweden, was in the first threesome off the first tee at 6:30 a.m. local time and posted a flawless six-birdie round that was one shot clear of the previous track record set by Mark Halliday in 2010.

"I played really, really well," Broberg, a four-time Challenge Tour winner in 2012, told the Daily Mail. "I woke up at 4 a.m. and saw the wind out there. There was a little less wind to start, but it got more windy after eight holes so it's the same for everybody."

McIlroy, also among the morning wave of players tuning up on the Scottish links for next week’s British Open, served early notice that Broberg’s glory would be short-lived when he pumped in four consecutive birdies between holes eight and 11. After disappointing par on the par-5 12th, McIlroy got back on track with a birdie at the 13th when he drove the green. With just one bogey amid eight birdies, the former world No. 1 hoped to follow in fellow competitor Phil Mickelson’s footsteps and sweep the Scottish and British championships.

Rory_photo_credit-_andrew_redington_medium

Photo credit: Andrew Redington

"Phil definitely opened the eyes of a lot of guys, I think," McIlroy told reporters on the eve of Thursday’s start about Mickelson’s ability to win both U.K. tourneys in 2013. "Me personally, I played with Phil the first two rounds at Muirfield, and I could see he was just ‑‑ he was ready, he was sharp. He played a competitive week the last week. He had won obviously but he just looked like he was ready for the links challenge and everything that it was going to present us with.

"That's when I sort of [began] thinking I might play the Scottish next year," said McIlroy, who noted that other players, including Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, and Jimmy Walker were of similar mindsets. "There's a few guys that I think Phil has really influenced to come over and play some links golf, competitive links golf, before The Open."

McIlroy has played well this season, with six top-10s on the PGA Tour, though he missed the cut at the Irish Open last month before jetting off to a vacation with some buddies ahead of this week’s contest.

"There's a few guys that I think Phil has really influenced to come over and play competitive links golf before The Open." -Rory McIlroy

Mickelson, who went back-to-back at Castle Stuart and Muirfield last year, posted an eagle on the par-5 sixth on his way to a 68, to sit four shots behind the early clubhouse leader.

Elsewhere in the U.K., Stacy Lewis got off to a strong start to her defense of the Women’s British Open, finishing her first round at Royal Birkdale with a 1-under 71. One of just six players under par in the early going, top-ranked and tourney favorite Lewis will enter Friday’s second round two strokes back of morning leader Ayako Uehara.

Michelle Wie, coming off her first major championship win, a disappointing T8 finish to Lewis’ victory in Arkansas two weeks ago, and tipped by oddsmakers to come in second to Lewis at Birkdale, carded an opening 75. A birdie on the 18th may give the four-time LPGA winner confidence heading into Friday’s second round.

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