Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy capitalized on calm weather, shooting a record-tying 63 in the first round of golf’s British Open to take a two-shot lead over South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
McIlroy’s 9-under par was the best opening round in the history of the Open, held this year at St. Andrews in Scotland, and ties the record for lowest round in a major championship. Oosthuizen, 27, completed his round at 7-under after a bogey on the 17th. Tiger Woods also bogeyed that hole, finishing four shots off the lead with a 67.
The 21-year-old McIlroy eagled the ninth and then had six birdies on the back nine. McIlroy earned his first U.S. PGA Tour victory in May at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, making him the youngest winner on the tour since Woods in 1996. Woods, who won the British Open when it was held in St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005, had three straight birdies, starting on the 12th, to move into contention.
“There’s still a lot of people to go,” McIlroy said in a televised interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. “We needed to take advantage of the conditions this morning, and I was lucky enough to do that.”
McIlroy tied seven other golfers for lowest round at the Open, and it’s the 24th time someone’s shot a 63 at a major.
Play began at 6:30 a.m. under gray clouds with little wind. There was some rain during the day, and the wind picked up as the skies cleared in the afternoon, according to the U.K. Met Office.
Two-time major champion John Daly, England’s Steven Tiley, Scotland’s Andrew Coltart, Peter Hanson of Sweden and Bradley Dredge of Wales finished their rounds on 66, three shots behind McIlroy.
Daly won the British Open in 1995. He didn’t make the cut at the Travelers Championship last month, shooting 1-over par. The 44-year-old, wearing purple and lime-green paisley trousers with a pink shirt, lost a stroke on the 17th, and missed a putt on the last hole of the round that would’ve taken him to 7-under.
“The way I hit my driver today, I had so many opportunities,” Daly told reporters. “It was just a great, solid ball-striking day.”
Oosthuizen is playing in his first British Open, although he’s played St. Andrews in other tournaments.
“The first nine holes there was a lot of birdies out there,” the South African told reporters. “Just got really windy when we turned on the 12th.”
Tom Watson, who lost last year’s championship in a playoff, was 1-over par, tied for 103rd. He had bogeys on the second, third and fourth holes before getting a shot back on the fifth. Stewart Cink, who beat Watson last year, was tied for 61st at 1-under.
Phil Mickelson, the four-time major champion who won the Masters Tournament in April, shot a 1-over-par 73, with a double-bogey at the 13th and an 18th-hole birdie. He’s tied for 97th and has never won the British Open.
Woods was the 6-1 favorite at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc at the start of the day. He won by a combined 13 shots in 2000 and 2005 and has called St. Andrews his favorite course. The 34-year-old was 11-under par for the first two rounds in both his victories at the venue, which is located northeast of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. He went on to win by eight shots in 2000 and posted a five-stroke victory in 2005.
Woods is tied for eighth place with eight golfers after his round of 67. He was 1-under for six holes, then shot 5-under for the next eight holes.
“With the conditions we had, you had to go get it,” Woods told reporters. “You had to take advantage of it. I felt like I did a pretty good job of that today, and I let the round mature.”