Sunday, 25 August, 2019

Key Hole at British Open

Darren Clarke hits the first shot of the 148th Open at Royal Portrush Darren Clarke hits the first shot of the 148th Open at Royal Portrush
Shannon Reynolds | 20 July, 2019, 19:11

McIlroy, who is from Ireland and won The Open in 2014, admitted he was disappointed he failed to qualify.

Many predicted late afternoon drama on the 18th hole involving the northern Irish superstar at this Open Championship, they just didn't expect it to come so soon.

Overnight leader Holmes was first into the clubhouse at eight under after a 68, with five birdies and two bogeys.

The pair are on eight under par for the tournament, one shot clear of Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood. Among those within three shots of the lead were Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth.

This day was all about McIlroy, who kept the sellout crowd on edge as he tried to make the cut after opening with a 79.

He made par for a 65. "And just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on".

Cameron Smith and Jason Day were in contention after the opening 18 holes, with both players on 1-under after opening rounds of 70. Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and Austin Connelly, an American-Canadian dual citizen, missed the cut.

Tiger Woods had earlier, much earlier, confirmed his own Portrush departure - comfortably so at six over.

He's obviously going to miss the cut, but what do Woods and McIlroy need to do to survive? "It was satisfying. I'm proud of myself to reset and get the attitude right after [Thursday's triple-bogey finish]". This unfamiliarity with the course may have led to several unknowns owning the first round Thursday. The cheers were as loud as he has heard.

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"It's easy when he's just standing on the tee, telling you to hit it in this spot, and I just listen to him", Koepka said.

"You can't but smile, you can't but laugh". "There's no point in shying away from it". And I figured if some good things happened, I could run top 20. Of course, this week it would be a little different with a three-hole play-off; up the par four first, par three 13th and par four 18th. "If I could get a little bit more control of that I think I could have won some more tournaments, but I still have that opportunity". "I want to win a Major". "Hopefully, more of the same [Saturday] and see where it leaves me". You lads write about it.

The experience of winning majors was behind them.

Westwood's 68-67 start is identical to that of Fleetwood. He was in a tie for eighth, the 16th time in his last 17 rounds at the majors he has ended a round in the top 10. "I thought it was a little bit unfair".

"But I'll look back at this week with nothing but fondness and positivity and I can't wait to come back here and play in another Open Championship".

Graeme McDowell, Portrush-born and the only remaining Northern Irishman left in the field, went out in a level-par 36 after three-putting the par-three sixth cancelled out his birdie at the second and he remained one over.

McIlroy's emotions got the better of him when he realised his rescue mission was in vain on Friday night. Mentally he's in a great place and meanwhile there's a lot of good players out here.

"I'm not going to tee off tomorrow and say: 'I'm going to love this whatever happens.' I want to make it happen".

"I felt today I showed the real Rory McIlroy and the golf that I can play", said the world number three. "I knew the rain was coming so I wanted to get a fast start".

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