Bjorn Leads British Open First Round, McIlroy Struggles Early

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn holds a two-stroke lead in the first round of the British Open as tournament favorite Rory McIlroy struggled early.

Bjorn is 4-under par through 14 holes at Royal St. George’s, with five birdies and a bogey. The 40-year-old, who tied for second after blowing a three-shot lead with four holes to play the last time the Open was played at the Sandwich, England, course, got into the field after Vijay Singh withdrew earlier this week.

U.S. Open champion McIlroy is 2-over par through seven holes. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland bogeyed two of his first three holes.

Americans Mark Calcavecchia, the 1989 champion, and Stewart Cink, the 2009 winner, and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez are tied for second at 2-under.

McIlroy won last month’s U.S. Open by eight strokes, setting 12 tournament records, including his score of 16-under-par, the lowest in the event’s 111-year history.

He bogeyed the first hole today, three-putting from just off the back of the green after playing partner Rickie Fowler holed out for birdie from almost the same spot. After a second bogey at the par-3 third hole, he’s made four consecutive pars, missing a short birdie putt at No. 7.

U.K. bookmaker William Hill lists McIlroy as the 10-1 favorite, meaning a successful $1 bet returns $10 plus the original stake. Donald and Lee Westwood, the top two in the Official World Golf Ranking, are next at 12-1 and 14-1, followed by U.S. PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany at 28-1.

American Odds

Steve Stricker and Nick Watney have the best odds among players from the U.S. at 35-1. McIlroy’s win at Congressional was the fifth straight at a major by a non-American, the longest streak in history. Watney is 3-over through eight holes and Stricker tees off this afternoon.

Wind could be a major factor at the links course 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of London. Play started in a light breeze with the forecast calling for gusts of up to 30 miles per hour. Organizers said yesterday they may move up some tee positions if the winds blow.

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