Rory McIlroy had never birdied the opening hole of any Open Championship — until Thursday at Royal St. George’s.
McIlroy hit a sweet approach into the first, made birdie and broke that first-hole Open drought. It looked like he’d make it two straight to start his opening round when he hit a short wedge into the second hole and it settled just five feet from the cup. But in typical Rory fashion, he missed the short birdie attempt.
After pars at three and four, McIlroy looked as if he was on his way to shooting himself out of the tournament as he went on a bogey-run at five, six and seven. A birdie at the eighth righted the ship but another bogey at the 11th put him two-over for the afternoon. But Rory birdied the downwind par five 14th then hit a pretty approach into the 18th and holed a seven-footer to finish his day the way he started — with birdie.
For the 16 holes in between, McIlroy was up and down.
McIlroy’s even-par round of 70 got him a tie for 48th but he was in good standing compared to most of the afternoon players. He’ll have a chance to get in the hunt when he goes out early Friday morning when conditions may be more favorable for scoring as they were Thursday for the early groups.
Dustin Johnson Off To A Good Start With 68:
The world’s No. 1 wasn’t great but Dustin Johnson wasn’t bad either during Thursday’s first round. Johnson made two big equipment changes for this final major of the season — he went back to an older driver, one he was more effective with and put the putter back in his bag that had been most effective for him last season.
One of the issues Johnson faces is that his equipment sponsor — TaylorMade — comes out with new drivers and putters seemingly every nine months and as the face of the brand, sometimes players feel pressured to put the new stuff in their bags. Johnson has been having problems with the driver, missing too many drives to the left and eliminating the left side of the course has made him the best player in the world when things are working correctly.
D.J. managed four birdies to start the championship but back-to-back birdies at the eighth and ninth prevented a really nice start. His 68 left him tied for 19th.
No. 2 Jon Rahm suffered a double-bogey at the ninth courtesy of a pot bunker but by day’s end, kept himself in play with 71. No. 3 Justin Thomas was frustrated in the afternoon and could do no better than 72. Fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa had the best outing of the world’s top 10. He played in the afternoon and had the second-best effort — a three-under par 67. Fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele’s 69 got him in the hunt. No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau spent most of the day in the rough and shot 71. No. 7 Patrick Cantlay is in danger of missing the weekend after shooting 74. Patrick Reed (No. 9) had problems off the tee and those issues translated to a 72. Brooks Koepka (No. 8) shot 69 while England’s highest ranked player, Tyrrell Hatton, shot 72.
Rain Hampers Barbasol, Stuard In With 64:
Heavy rains swept through the Lexington, Kentucky area Thursday and put a damper on things at the Barbasol Championship but Brian Stuard was able to finish his first day’s work before the delays and set the first round mark to beat with an eight-under par 64.
Eight players were finished with seven-under par 65s including Scott Harrington, J.T. Poston and Vaughn Taylor. At least three players reached seven-under with holes left to play when the delayed first round resumes Friday morning.
A total of 70 players were at three-under par 69 or better.