American JB Holmes will have a fight on his hands to stay top of The Open’s leaderboard when round two gets into swing.
Here, PA looks ahead to a busy Friday at Royal Portrush.
Tyrrell Hatton: 7:41am/Tommy Fleetwood: 7:52am/Lee Westwood: 9:36am (all three under)
The trio of Hatton, Fleetwood and Westwood are all leading the bid for a first English winner of The Open since Nick Faldo back in 1992. High Wycombe’s Hatton feels back in the groove, Southport man Fleetwood kept it stress-free on Thursday, while Westwood is aiming to take each day as it comes.
JB Holmes (five under, leader): 9:25am
The American topped the rankings at the end of the first day, managing the conditions better than anyone else and earning full reward. If the big-hitting 37-year-old can keep his driving game on point then he could turn his fast start into a contending position.
Tiger Woods (plus seven): 10:09am
The 15-time major champion just could not get his battered body into gear on Thursday, thus enduring a torrid graft against his debilitating back problems. The 43-year-old celebrated exuberantly when dropping his sole birdie on the 15th. Any more back problems and Woods is in danger of missing the cut.
Shane Lowry (four under): 12:53pm
The Irishman from County Offaly thrashed out a few worries with coach Neil Manchip in the Bushmills Inn – on the eve of The Open no less. That heart to heart paid full dividend as Lowry took an initial clubhouse lead and wound up one shot off Holmes. Now the challenge mounts in his bid to stay as relaxed and reinvigorated as the pressure starts to bite.
Rory McIlroy (plus eight): 3:10pm
McIlroy’s shocking opening round on his home course, where he hit 61 aged 16, could haunt the Holywood native for some time. The 30-year-old will be desperate not to miss the cut on home soil, but needs something special on Friday to climb the rankings.
Portrush resident Darren Clarke enjoyed an unforgettable day on home soil, relishing in the honour of hitting the tournament’s first shot. The 50-year-old was humbled to launch Royal Portrush’s first Open Championship since 1951, with Northern Ireland back on the global sporting map. Clarke rattled three birdies in five holes, slotting home on the fifth in the shadow of his home. His eventual level par represented a hugely creditable return, setting an upbeat tone for the Portrush celebrations.
In 29, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox fired the lowest back-nine score in the history of The Open. The son of former All Blacks fly-half Grant got off to a flyer at Portrush.
“Sometimes they’d come a minute, minute-and-a-half. But standing on the two tee box, man, I felt like the world was going to end.”
American Brooks Koepka does not hold back when reviewing the variable weather patterns at Royal Portrush.
Catch all the action live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Golf from 6:30am.
The intermittent showers look to dog the Dunluce Links course once again. The rains might hold off in the morning but the wind may very well not.