McIlroy rips through a defenseless Old Course

By Doug FergusonJuly 16, 2010, 1:43 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – In the 137 years since the British Open first came to St. Andrews, the Old Course rarely has been such a pushover. Rarer still was the score Rory McIlroy delivered.

Whether it was the luck of the draw or his tantalizing talent really didn’t matter.

In conditions so calm that not a hair on his considerable mop was out of place, McIlroy set off on an incredible run into the record book Thursday with a 9-under 63 that gave him a two-shot lead.

“Going out there this morning with no wind, you’re never going to get St. Andrews playing any easier,” McIlroy said.

It was just as easy for John Daly, a former champion at St. Andrews and now the ultimate long shot. He first energized the gallery by bashing tee shots and making enough birdies for a 66, matching his best score in the British Open.

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy's first round 63 has him atop the leaderboard at The Open. (Getty Images)
And it was just as easy for Tiger Woods, who ran off three straight birdies late in his round for a 67.

“The old lady had no clothes on today,” Tom Watson said after a 73.

There were 45 rounds in the 60s, 73 players broke par and the average score was under par – 71.75.

No one took advantage like McIlroy, a 21-year-old from Northern Ireland with a game beyond his years. His 63 tied the lowest score in any major, and it was only the second such score at St. Andrews in golf’s oldest championship.

Of the eight players who have shot 63 in the British Open, McIlroy is the only one to do it in the first round.

“I’m very happy that I was able to take advantage of those conditions,” said McIlroy, who had a two-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa. “And it gives me a little bit of a buffer going into the next three days, whatever weather comes our way.”

It sure didn’t feel easy in the afternoon.

Not long after McIlroy finished his round, the leaden skies over St. Andrews Bay brought showers to the Old Course and a breeze that picked up strength the rest of the afternoon.

Of the 16 players atop the leaderboard, only Peter Hanson (66), Bradley Dredge (66), Lee Westwood (67) and Y.E. Yang (67) teed off after the wind showed up at noon.

“The difference for the early and late starters was huge,” Westwood said. “You could have kicked it round in a low score this morning. The course was defenseless, and I actually expected somebody to post a 62. I don’t think I have ever known St. Andrews as calm. Hopefully, we might get a break with the weather tomorrow morning, but you never know.”

Retief Goosen turned on his television just before 10 a.m. and saw Daly at 7-under par through 11 holes. The wind already was whipping flags when he teed off, and the two-time U.S. Open champion equated his 69 to a 66 had he played in the morning.

He bore no grudges. Such is the fickle nature of links golf.

“You’ve still got to make a score,” Goosen said. “It doesn’t matter how easy it is.”

Phil Mickelson didn’t make a birdie in the afternoon until making an 8-foot putt on the last hole for a 73, and walking off the course without speaking to reporters.

McIlroy’s amazing run began with a drive that he hit onto the green at the 352-yard ninth hole to about 15 feet below the hole. He knocked that in for birdie and was on his way. The freckled-face kid followed with a sand wedge to 6 feet on the 10th for birdie, a 7-iron to 8 feet for birdie on the 11th, and two putts from 50 feet on the short 12th hole.

It was so low – and so there for the taking – that even after a record-tying round, he thought about the one that got away.

McIlroy was 8 under when he flew his approach dangerously close over the Road Hole bunker on the 17th, leaving him a 5-foot birdie putt. Make that, and he goes to the 357-yard 18th with a shot at 62.

He missed.

“It sort of went through my mind on 17 that 62 would have been the lowest round in a major,” McIlroy said. “That’s probably why I missed the putt.”

He already shot a 62 earlier this year on a course that was far tougher than St. Andrews on Thursday – Quail Hollow for his first victory in America. It was another example why so many have predicted stardom for him. He also shot a 61 at Royal Portrush when he was 16.

This was different.

“I think it probably is the most special just because it’s at St. Andrews,” McIlroy said. “And it’s the Open Championship.”

Oosthuizen looked as though he might have a chance to join McIlroy. He also was at 8 under playing the 17th until making a bogey, then failing to pick up a stroke on the last hole and settling for a 65.

Not often does someone open with a 65 in a major and trail by two shots. This was not a typical opening round in a major.

“It just goes to show you that the golf course could have been had,” Woods said. “When I was playing either 17 or 18, to be in the top 10 you had to be 5 under. You don’t see that at too many majors.”

For Woods, it was the first time in eight rounds in an Open at St. Andrews – dating to July 20, 2000 – that he was not atop the leaderboard at the end of a round.

He made his move through the loop, then ended his string of three straight birdies on the par-5 14th. Woods was moving closer to the lead until he badly pulled a 4-foot par putt on the 17th, then missed a 10-foot birdie try on the last hole.

“I’m in good shape,” Woods said. “I took advantage of the golf course when I needed to take advantage of it. As of right now, we’re on the good side of the draw. But you don’t know tomorrow.”

Woods won the last two times on the Old Course by a combined 13 shots, and his bid to become the first player with three claret jugs at the home of golf is still in the picture.

Asked if he could catch McIlroy, Woods replied, “We’ve still got three more rounds.”

Five players were only three shots behind at 66, a group that includes Daly, who won at St. Andrews in 1995, the last time the weather acted up. Those in the large group with Woods included Westwood, PGA champion Y.E. Yang and former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.

Defending champion Stewart Cink opened with a 70, despite catching St. Andrews lying down.

In the nine times McIlroy has competed at St. Andrews, as an amateur and a pro, he has broken 70 every time.

“I’ve actually never played St. Andrews when the weather has been that bad,” McIlroy said. “That’s probably why my scores have been quite good.”

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.