Rory McIlroy continued his string of Thursday assaults on unsuspecting golf courses as the two-time major champion took advantage of Florida-like conditions at Royal Liverpool and fired a 6-under 66 to take the early clubhouse lead at the British Open. A powerful, flawless trip around Hoylake gave McIlroy, in the morning wave of players, a one-shot lead over Matteo Manassero.
Now all he has to do is overcome his Friday flutters and continue his newfound love affair with links golf and the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland just may add the third leg of the career grand slam to his resume.
Rory McIlroy, astonishingly, is now a combined 57 under for his first rounds this season - as opposed to nine over for his second.— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) July 17, 2014
McIlroy, not a fan of the damp, windy, and cool weather that often breaks out at the Open Championship, had nothing but sunshine and temps in the 70s to deal with, so he scorched the course with an aggressive strategy that led to six birdies with zero errors and a near-eagle on No. 2 (via Adam Sarson)
Indeed, even after taking a rare conservative approach at the par-4 17th, with a 5-iron off the tee that found some tamped-down fescue to the left of the fairway, McIlroy was able to par the hole.
Obviously pleased with his first-round efforts, which have resulted in a PGA Tour-leading 68 scoring average, McIlroy looked forward to changing things up on day two, as his 73 average ranked 181st. Most recently, he shot an opening-round 7-under 64 at last week’s Scottish Open, only to follow up with a 78.
"I don't know what it is [about Fridays], maybe I'm putting a little bit too much pressure on myself," the winner of the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship commented to ESPN after his stellar 66. "I just told myself this week, 'just take it shot by shot, one shot at a time.' I know everyone says it but it is true, and we’ll see how we do tomorrow.
The British Open
The British Open
"I'm at 6-under par right now in the tournament," he said. "Hopefully I can get to 7 tomorrow and then get to 8 and just keep trying to improve."
With six top-10 finishes in 10 tour contests this season, McIlroy has started well several times, only to run into his own psyche in round two.
"I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, so there’s no reason why I should have any problem shooting a low one on Friday," McIlroy, who won the Australian Open in December and the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour in May, told reporters on Tuesday. "I think it just got into my head. It's just something I need to go out and pretend like it’s a Thursday again ... Hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around."
Out late on Friday, McIlroy will have some time to stew about his Friday meltdowns. He’ll take the tee at 2:27 p.m local time for his second round.