YOUNG Irishman Rory McIlroy set the lowset first round score in the history of the British Open with a nine under 63 to lead the championship at the St Andrews Old Course after day one.
An eagle on the short par four ninth fired the 21 year old into action on the back.
“The round was going OK, one-under through eight holes, nothing special, and then the eagle on nine really got me going,” McIllroy said.
In eight previous rounds over the Old Course, six as an amateur, the Irishman he has never been higher than 69.
It was a tale of two halves over the Old Course on the first day of the 150th Anniversary Open Championship, with the morning starters blessed with flat, calm conditions and those who came later confronted with rising wind and blasts of heavy rain.
Two strokes behind the leader with an impressive round was South African Louis Oosthuizen, whilst a rejuvenated John Daly was third with a 66 along with Peter Hanson, Andrew Coltart and Steven Tiley.
Tiger Woods, seeking his third successive win at St Andrews after victories in 2000 and 2005, is lurking four shots behind the leader.
He was in a large group on five under that includes home favourite Lee Westwood, YE Yang and former US Open victor Lucas Glover.
US Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who could end Woods’s five-year reign as world No.1 with victory in Scotland, is in danger of missing the weekend cut after recording a one-over 73.
With the early benign conditions, more than half the field of 156 players finished the day under par and more than 500 birdies were recorded. Tiger Woods said that he had never known a major championship where it took a five under par score to get into the top 10 in the first round. In fact 16 players are on that score or better.
John Senden leads the Aussie contingent
Australia had a disappointing start with only John Senden, Robert Allenby and major newbie Jason Day managed to break par.
With a four under 68 Senden is five strokes behind the leader, while Allenby (69) and Day (71) are still well in contention.
Late starters Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Michael Sim all posted even-par 72s and will be looking to make up ground when they tee off in hopefully better conditions on day two.
Senden was delighted with his five birdies only offset with a lone bogey recorded on the intimidating and extended par four 17th.
“This is my first actual tournament day at this course, so you’ve got to be happy,” Senden said.
Jason Day, the youngest Australia player ever to win on the US PGA Tour, was upbeat after making his eagerly-awaited major debut.
“lt was good, probably one of the better experiences just because it’s the home of golf,” the 22-year-old said.
“I hit it well. I just hit a lot of lips out there and unfortunately didn’t hole any putts.
An obviously frustrated Adam Scott again struggled with his putter.
“Same old story, I let myself down on the greens,” Scott said.
“It’s been the story of the year. I just putt poorly every week. I’ve just had a gutful of it.
Peter Senior, who celebrates his 51st birthday in a couple of weeks, mixed four birdies with five bogeys in a very creditable performance in the afternoon conditions.
Marc Leishman also finished one over while Mathew Goggin (74), Kurt Barnes (75) and Cameron Percy (76) have work to do to make the weekend cut.
Ewen Porter had a horror day and never really recovered after a quadruple eight on the short par four second. He finished equal last with a nine-over 81.