Rory McIlroy will take a one-shot lead into the second round of the Open Championship as he looks to end a series of Friday collapses this year. The two-time major winner shot a superb 66 on the opening day’s play at Hoylake to lead Italian Matteo Manassero by a shot and with a host of big names not far behind.
World No. 1 Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia are among a big group at four under, while Tiger Woods sits a shot further back after a strong first day. But much of the attention on Friday will be focused on McIlroy, who has endured a challenging past 18 months both on and off the course. His struggles this year have chiefly been to maintain quick starts -- epitomized by his performance just last week at the Scottish Open when he shot a 78 after an opening 64. While the story of his year, it has also been the story of the Northern Irishman’s record in the Open. Even his best finish of a tie for third in 2010 came when he followed a first-round 63 by shooting 80.
“Whenever I go out and play on Thursday there’s not many expectations,” he said on Thursday. “When you’re going back out on a Friday after a good score, you know what you can do on a golf course. You’re going out with some expectations, compared to when on with Thursday going out with not many. I think I just got to approach it like that and start off trying to hit solid shots and play my way into the round -- just like I did today.”
After missing the first two majors of the year following back surgery, expectations were low for Woods coming into the event. And when he bogeyed his first two holes on Thursday a repeat of his first tournament back, when missing the cut at Congressional last month, looked on the cards. Instead the 14-timer major champion, who won the last time the Open was held at Hoylake in 2006, responded to hit five birdies on his back nine.
“I knew I could do it,” Woods said, according to ESPN. “That's why I was telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional. The fact that I was able to recover every day, and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played.
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“I'm only going to get better from that point. And I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, I'm getting more explosive. The ball is starting to travel again. And those are all positive things.”
Scott is a shot better off and is focused on keeping pace with the leader, but is expecting tougher weather conditions to shake up the pack.
“It's important to keep pace with a guy like Rory,” he said, reports BBC Sport. “He has the potential to really put his foot down. I don't want him running away. “It's pretty bunched at the moment but a full day of wind will sort the field out.”
Leaderboard and Friday Tee Times (ET)
-6 Rory McIlroy (9.27 a.m.)
-5 Matteo Manassero (8.05 a.m.)
-4 Edoardo Molinari (7.21 a.m.)
-4 Francesco Molinari (7.45 a.m.)
-4 Brooks Koepka (7.21 a.m.)
-4 Jim Furyk (8.27 a.m.)
-4 Sergio Garcia (8.38 a.m.)
-4 Adam Scott (4.26 a.m.)
-4 Shane Lowry (5.21 a.m.)
-3 Robert Karlsson (6.26 a.m.)
-3 Marc Leishmann (6.59 a.m.)
-3 Koumei Oda (7.10 a.m.)
-3 Rickie Fowler (8.38 a.m.)
-3 Tiger Woods (9.05 a.m.)
-3 Hideki Matsuyama (9.27 a.m.)
-3 Jimmy Walker (9.38 a.m.)
-3 Yoshinobu Tsukada (11.06 a.m.)
-3 Bo Weekley (3.04 a.m.)
Where to watch: Coverage of Friday’s play at the British Open will get underway at 3.30 a.m. ET, with a live stream on ESPN3. TV coverage begins at 4 a.m. on ESPN.