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McIlroy and Woods deliver at British Open

McIlroy Atop Leaderboard After First Round


By DOUG FERGUSON

HOYLAKE, England (AP) -- Rory McIlroy had everything go his way Thursday in the British Open.

A lovely summer day in England with abundant sunshine and minimal wind allowed him to attack Royal Liverpool. He made half his six birdies on the par 5s and kept bogeys off his card. And on the day Tiger Woods made a promising return, McIlroy took the lead with a 6-under 66, his best score in nearly two years at a major.

Now if he can only find a way to get to the weekend.

McIlroy either set himself up for a good run at the claret jug or another dose of Friday failures. In what already has been an unusual year for golf, no trend is more mysterious than Boy Wonder going from awesome to awful overnight.

Six times in his last eight tournaments, he has had a nine-hole score of 40 or higher on Friday that has taken him out of the mix.

"It's not like I've shot good scores in first rounds and haven't backed them up before," McIlroy said. "I'm used to doing that. I just haven't done it recently. We'll see what tomorrow brings and what weather it is and try and handle it as best I can.

"Hopefully," he said, "it's just one of those things and I'm able to turn it around tomorrow."

Woods also would like to keep moving in the right direction. He got off to a troubling start with two quick bogeys, nearly made another one on the fourth hole, and then looked like a 14-time major champion when he ran off five birdies in six holes toward the end of his round for a 69.

Not bad for guy who had back surgery March 31, who started taking full swings only a month ago and who had not played in a major in 11 months.

"It felt good to be back out there competing again," Woods said.

Such pristine weather - how long it lasts is the big unknown - gave just about everyone a chance to score. Matteo Manassero broke par in The Open for the first time since he was a 16-year-old amateur. He began his round by hitting into a pot bunker, blasting out to the fairway and holing out from 160 yards for birdie. He made five birdies on the back nine, three on the par 5s.

That made him low Italian - barely.

Francesco Molinari and Edoardo Molinari have games that are nothing alike, though they shot the same score. They were in a large group at 68 along with Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry and Adam Scott.

Scott stands out as the No. 1 player in the world, and because he was the only player in the top 10 who played in the afternoon when the wind made Hoylake tougher. Scott went out in 31 and was slowed only by two bogeys on the back nine.

Even in tame conditions, the British Open can mete out punishment - to players, to spectators and even a golf club.

Phil Mickelson was trying to get back to even par when he hooked his approach to the 18th beyond the out-of-bounds stakes down the right side of the hole and had to scramble for a bogey and a 74. He hasn't broken par at a major since winning at Muirfield last summer.

That still doesn't top the bad day of Ernie Els. His opening tee shot hit a spectator in the face, and the sight of so much blood shook the Big Easy. When he got to the green, he missed a 1-foot putt, and then carelessly tried to back-hand the next one into the hole and missed that one. The triple bogey sent him to a 79.

Henrik Stenson knocked a 30-foot birdie putt off the 12th green and made double bogey, and then took two hacks out of the shin-high grass left of the 17th fairway. Walking to his next shot, he snapped his gap wedge over his thigh like a baseball player - Bo Jackson comes to mind - who had just struck out with the bases loaded.

Through all this activity, two names came to the forefront - McIlroy and Woods, both trying to restore their games from different circumstances.

McIlroy's only victory this year was at the BMW PGA Championship, where he started his week by breaking off his engagement with Caroline Wozniacki. He could have had more chances to win except for that 40 on the front nine at Quail Hollow, the 42 on the front nine at The Players Championship and the 43 on the back nine at the Memorial.

He met with Jack Nicklaus, and the topic of his freaky Fridays came up.

"I didn't mention it to him," McIlroy said. "He mentioned it to me - `How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78?' No, I think what we talked about was just holding a round together. And he was never afraid to make a change in the middle of the round ... to get it back on track."

The trick for McIlroy is to not get derailed in the second round. For the year, he is 55-under par in the first round and 15-over par in the second round.

Woods gave a light fist pump when he rolled in a 30-foot putt from just off the green on No. 11. He then hit a beautiful approach to 6 feet for birdie on the 12th. That put him under par in a tournament for the first time since March 9, the final round of Doral. OK, the sample size is small - that was the last tournament he played until returning to Congressional three weeks ago after back surgery.

Even so, he was playing with such rhythm late in his round that he might have wanted to keep going. That makes Friday a big day for Woods, too.

Join the discussion

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Pat July 17 2014 at 4:47 PM

my $$$ are on Saturday ...

that Tiger will F up and blame his poor performance on his back surgery and walk off crying like a little girl ...

Flag Reply +13 rate up
4 replies
RANDYTHOMAS711 July 17 2014 at 6:57 PM

If it were not for the media...Tiger would just get a mention and NOT the headline when he does not LEAD after the round...

Flag Reply +9 rate up
Joan July 17 2014 at 5:05 PM

His arrogance and lack of humility lends itself to anyone of the great players there, winning this Open, instead of him. Karma has a wicked sense of humor, time and time again. Watch and wait for it.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
2 replies
atuu Joan July 18 2014 at 8:18 AM

watch yours yoan. you only see yourself.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
hushai2048 Joan July 18 2014 at 8:35 AM

Go breathe some more candle fumes...

Flag Reply +1 rate up
moooooooooochelle July 18 2014 at 12:28 PM

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Flag Reply +6 rate up
biffcove July 18 2014 at 12:35 AM

I have enjoyed the last three months of not having to hear Tiger woods name every damn breath of the announcers mouth!! Hate to see him back !

Flag Reply +5 rate up
John Roberson July 17 2014 at 11:29 PM

Tiger will not necessarily blame his poor performance on his back problems as much as our president blames George W Bush for everything that has gone wrong while he Obama has been president.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
Paul John Roberson July 18 2014 at 10:57 AM

Why is it that they always blame something else?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Dianne & Ken John Roberson July 18 2014 at 12:58 PM

Because no one will take blame for their own mistakes. The devil made me do it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
skidrowtom July 17 2014 at 7:26 PM

Well, let's see..... Eldrick is tied for 10th, and AOL gives him four out of five headline stories, and the internet has his picture plastered everywhere. I'm not sure what the media promotes more, Eldrick or Hillary (now that they've taken a respite from jamming soccer down or throats.)

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Daniel skidrowtom July 17 2014 at 8:46 PM

What is it with you right wingers and the whole things shoved down your throat business. If you don't like Tiger turn the channel, and let the rest of the fans enjoy his game. He gets the big bucks because people tune in to watch him, just like soccer or haven't you seen the ratings the World Cup got.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
bdgrizcp Daniel July 18 2014 at 5:36 AM

It was once a tradition in golf coverage to focus attention on the leaders. Tiger created a self-exemption. His occasional loss of control moments are great theater. But even more, it pointed out that Tiger has a very hair trigger temper, and while he was on top it bought him a pass, but it also led to his demise. I like your comments about soccer--I watched the World Cup final and was amazed by the level of play. It was fun to watch--and I loved that practically nothing stopped the clock.

Flag 0 rate up
hushai2048 July 18 2014 at 8:35 AM

Way to go, Tiger...

The best is yet to come...

We're all with you.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
minkjp July 17 2014 at 7:52 PM

Put up a picture of whoever is leadig the tournament... real simple.

I don't care if Tiger wins or not. Just don't plaster his pic on the story when he is not winning. That's not fair to whoever is leading the tournament.

I don't hate Tiger, just the idiot who compiled the story and picture.
.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
atuu minkjp July 18 2014 at 8:20 AM

TW is the one selling tickets.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
skidrowtom July 17 2014 at 8:35 PM

Eldrick screamed "Jesus Christ" at photographers taking pictures. What a scum bag playing a sissy sport. Nike should be proud.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
ga7smi skidrowtom July 17 2014 at 8:41 PM

the fans are as impolite as Woods

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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