Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

The Open: Rivals back McIlroy after stunning first round

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy and his caddy JP Fitzgerald smile during the first round of the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 15, 2010
Rory McIlroy at The Open. July 2010
Rory McIlroy of waits on a tee box during practice for the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 14, 2010
Rory McIlroy at The Open. July 2010
John Daly at The Open. July 2010
Nick Watney at The Open. July 2010
Thomas Bjorn at The Open. July 2010
Sean O'Hair at The Open. July 2010
Oliver Wilson at The Open. July 2010
Amatuer, Jin Jeong at The Open. July 2010
Hunter Mahan at The Open. July 2010
Padraig Harrington at The Open. July 2010
JB Holmes at The Open. July 2010
Ryo Ishikawa at The Open. July 2010
Jason Day at The Open. July 2010
Andrew Coltart at The Open. July 2010
Darren Clarke at The Open. July 2010
Tom Watson at The Open. July 2010
Matt Kuchar at The Open. July 2010
Tiger Woods at The Open. July 2010
Fredrik Andersson Hed at The Open. July 2010
Thongchai Jaidee at The Open. July 2010
Kenny Perry at The Open. July 2010
Mike Weir at The Open. July 2010
Davis Love III at The Open. July 2010
Chris Wood at The Open. July 2010
Henrik Stenson at The Open. July 2010
Ian Poulter and Ernie Els at The Open. July 2010
Charl Schwartzel
Tim Clark at The Open. July 2010
Ross Fisher at The Open. July 2010
Justin Rose at The Open. July 2010
Padraig Harrington at The Open. July 2010
Camilo Villegas at The Open. July 2010
Yuta Ikeda at The Open. July 2010
Stewart Cink at The Open. July 2010
Ernie Els at The Open. July 2010
Tiger Woods and Justin Rose at The Open. July 2010
Robert Rock at The Open. July 2010
Loren Roberts at The Open. July 2010
Shunsuke Sonoda at The Open. July 2010
Trevor Immelman at The Open. July 2010
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at The Open. July 2010
Robert Allenby at The Open. July 2010
Ryan Moore at The Open. July 2010
Ross McGowan at The Open. July 2010
David Duval at The Open. July 2010
Lucas Glover at The Open. July 2010
Simon Dyson at The Open. July 2010
Marcel Siem at The Open. July 2010
John Senden at The Open. July 2010
Thomas Levet at The Open. July 2010
Seung-Yul Noh at The Open. July 2010
Alexander Noren at The Open. July 2010
Todd Hamilton at The Open. July 2010
Bill Haas at The Open. July 2010
Sir Nick Faldo at The Open. July 2010
Paul Lawrie at The Open. July 2010
Ryulchi Oda at The Open. July 2010
Mathew Goggin at The Open. July 2010
Soren Kjeldsen at The Open. July 2010
Jason Dufner at The Open. July 2010
Steve Marino at The Open. July 2010
Course workers clear water at The Open. July 2010
Course workers clear water at The Open. July 2010

Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington believe Rory McIlroy can join them in the Major champions club after the Holywood star's sensational first round 63 at St Andrews yesterday.

McIlroy, just 21, stamped his class on The Open, equalling the lowest ever round at golf's Majors.

The youngster ripped the defenceless Old Course to shreds, carding seven birdies and an eagle. And as he purred down the final 10-hole stretch in eight under, McIlroy looked every bit a Major champion in the making.

He led South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen by two, not much with 54-holes remaining in golf's oldest Major, especially with Tiger Woods, a two-time St Andrews winner, looming on five under.

But Harrington and McDowell both believe McIlroy has the game, the form and composure well beyond his years to become Irish golf's third Major champion in as many years.

McDowell, whose stunning victory at last month's US Open helped inspire yesterday's performance by McIlroy, believes his fellow Ulsterman and close friend is tough enough to take the |pressure over the next three days.

“Rory McIlroy is one of the most talented players I have ever seen. It doesn't surprise me that he's top of the leaderboard right now,” insisted McDowell, who carded a first-round 71. “The way he's playing, I fully expect him to be contending on Sunday afternoon.”

Harrington added: “It's obvious that if Rory continues to play that way, he's going to win the tournament. By shooting nine-under par, Rory has put himself in a great position.”

And as for the man of the moment, McIlroy admitted he had momentarily eyed a Major record-breaking 62.

“Definitely, I let one get away at 17 but I’m leading The Open; this is my best-ever round at St Andrews and I just love this place,” he said.

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