The links course at Royal Liverpool Golf Club is one of the recognizable in the sport, and the 2014 British Open started off with a first round worthy of the stage it was presented on.
With top stars like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson all playing strong rounds to start the tournament, the excitement surrounding this year’s hunt for the Claret Jug has only grown after such an intriguing first round.
McIlroy leads the field at a score of six under, but with three more days of action on the schedule, anything can happen.
Here are the top final scores, the full leaderboard and the biggest winner of Day 1.
Round 1’s Biggest Winner: Rory McIlroy
There were many players who struck the ball well or had control of their putter on Thursday, but none had everything going at once the way McIlroy did when he shot six under with a round of 66.
Will Rory McIlroy win the 2014 British Open?
After starting the day with a par, McIlroy found his rhythm and hit a birdie on three of the next five holes (Nos. 2, 5 and 6). He finished his back nine with three straight pars for a score of three under.
The turn brought an immediate birdie on the 10th hole, and he followed it up with another birdie on the 12th. McIlroy looked to play it safe for the rest of the first round but did manage one more birdie on No. 16, which is when he took the lead.
The official Twitter account of The Open Championship shared an image from the hole that earned McIlroy his tournament lead:
Following his first-round success, McIlroy told reporters about the issues he'll face during the second round:
I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself going out on Fridays and trying to back up a score. I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday. There should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday…It’s something that I need to go out and pretend like it’s a Thursday again and go out and just—I don’t know.
As well as McIlroy performed on Thursday, the 25-year-old will face a tough test on Day 2. He has been notoriously streaky on the second day of tournaments and will need to shake the trend if he wants to be a serious contender this weekend.
Golf Central shared a graphic about just how bad McIlroy’s Day 2 struggles have become:
Rory McIlroy (-6) will look to put an end to his "Freaky Fridays" tomorrow at Royal Liverpool. (entering week) pic.twitter.com/oiR2LYGHp6— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) July 17, 2014
Jason Sobel of Golf Channel reiterated that point:
I don't mean to be a downer here, but the last time Rory McIlroy led The Open after one round, he shot 80 the next day.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 17, 2014
The six birdies on the day were impressive, but it was the complete lack of bogeys for the round that showcased the vast amount of skill McIlroy possesses.
There is no use trying to explain his lackluster play on the second day of events, but he has set the stage and built momentum to solve the riddle and perform well again on Friday.
McIlroy hasn’t played well at the British Open since he finished tied for third in 2010, but he understands what it takes to win a major and will enter the second day looking to play just as well as he did Thursday.
If he can match his Day 1 performance, the entire field will be put on notice.
Stats via PGATour.com.