PORTRUSH – Rory McIlroy suffered an abysmal start on a morning of mixed fortunes for local favourites as the British Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years on Thursday.
Huge crowds descended on the Royal Portrush course on the Antrim coast, many heading to the first tee at just past 7.30 a.m. to watch Darren Clarke hit the first tee shot.
Clarke, who was joined in the morning groups by fellow Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and McIlroy, got off to a great start with three birdies in his first five holes, but he eventually leaked shots to finish with a level-par 71.
Ireland's Shane Lowry thrilled the crowd by making three birdies on his outward nine and taking the lead with a birdie on the 12th hole to reach four under. But he eventually gave way to the American Webb Simpson, who got to five under after 13 holes.
What McIlroy would do for that. The 2014 champion, who first played the Portrush course as a child, was roared on to the tee but carded a quadruple eight on the par-four first hole.