Rory McIlroy took advantage of windless conditions to shoot 63 at the British Open and tie the record for lowest score in a major golf championship.
The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland finished 9 under par on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, to take the first-round lead. It’s the 24th 63 in major history and the first since Tiger Woods at the 2007 U.S. PGA Championship.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of rain over the past couple of days and going out this morning with no wind, you’re never going to get St. Andrews playing any easier,” McIlroy said in a news conference.
McIlroy was 1-under when he drove the 352-yard, par-4 ninth hole and sank the 15-foot putt for eagle. Then came five birdies over the next seven holes before he missed a three-foot birdie putt on 17. He then added a final birdie at the 18th.
“It’s a pretty impressive round, no doubt,” top-ranked Tiger Woods, who shot 67, told reporters. “Rory kept it going.”
McIlroy said he briefly thought about breaking the record before missing the short putt on the next-to-last hole.
“It sort of went through my mind on 17 that 62 would have been the lowest round in a major,” he said. “That’s probably why I missed it.”
McIlroy has had plenty of success at St. Andrews. He’s played nine rounds there since 2007, six as an amateur, and has never shot 70 or above.
“This course, I just love the place,” he said. “If I had one course to play, this would probably be the course, because it’s just an enjoyable golf course.
McIlroy shot a final-round 62 in May to win the U.S. PGA Tour’s Quail Hollow Championship. He missed the cut at the year’s first two majors, the Masters Tournament and the U.S. Open
He’s the eighth player to shoot 63 at the British Open and the first since Nick Faldo and Payne Stewart at Royal St. George’s in 1993. Paul Broadhurst had the only other 63 in the Open at St. Andrews, in 1990.