LYTHAM, England – Rory McIlroy shook off a double bogey after a wayward tee shot struck a spectator in the head and birdied two of the last three holes to sit among the first-day leaders at the 141st British Open.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman, who won his first major title at last year's US Open, fired a three-under par 67 to stand three strokes behind leader Adam Scott of Australia after the opening 18
holes at Royal Lytham.
“I thought I did well to keep my composure and keep my concentration and finish the way I did. I'm very pleased with that,” McIlroy said. “It's a great position heading into the second day.”
McIlroy sank back-to-back birdies at the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth holes, and after starting the back nine with a bogey, made another set of consecutive birdies at the par-5 11th and par-4 12th holes.
But McIlroy hit a spectator in the head on the bounce with his tee shot at the 15th and the ball rolled just out of bounds, setting up a double bogey that dropped him back to one-over par.
“If he could have headed it the other way, it would have been in the fairway,” McIlroy joked.
McIlroy has struck spectators with shots before, but he was concerned enough to ask the young man who was hit if he was all right.
“I've done it a few times before, so it's not the first time,” McIlroy said. “The most important thing was that he was OK because I would have felt terrible if it had have been worse than what it was.”
McIlroy recovered from the setback with a birdie at the 16th, after missing a 10-foot eagle attempt, and a five-foot birdie at the 18th, leaving him three strokes off the pace but much more content than after his mishap at 15.
“An eventful last four holes, anyway,” McIlroy said. “Everything was going along pretty nicely standing on the 15th tee. I had a tee shot slightly right and I got an unfortunate break.”
McIlroy's errant shot at 15 prompted medical personnel to check on the young man who was hit. McIlroy autographed a white glove and gave it to the injured man, who proudly displayed his souvenir for television cameras.
“I liked how I reacted,” McIlroy said. “I bogeyed 10 from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in my hand so that wasn't so good and reacting to that unfortunate break on 15 the way I did as well is very pleasing.
“That birdie on 18, it will make dinner taste very nice.”
McIlroy played in the afternoon, when fewer players were able to command scores that put them on the leaderboard at the bunker-bolstered links layout.
“I think we had it maybe slightly tougher than the guys in the morning and 67 was a score that I'm very pleased with,” McIlroy said.
“I was very calm. My emotions were good out there. I felt like I didn't miss many fairways. I didn't miss many greens. It was pretty much under control. I would rate (my game) pretty high at the moment.” – Sapa-AFP