Rory McIlroy today equalled the lowest round ever in a Major championship with a stunning nine-under-par 63 in the first round of the 139th Open Championship at St Andrews.
McIlroy took advantage of a defenceless Old Course to card seven birdies and an eagle, playing the last 10 holes in eight under for a three-shot clubhouse lead over former champion John Daly and Scotland’s Andrew Coltart.
Tiger Woods was also ominously lurking on five-under after a bogey on the 17th in his round of 67, but McIlroy was deservedly hogging the limelight after a superb display which justified his position as pre-tournament second favourite behind the world number one.
There has never been a 62 in Major championship history – McIlroy’s 63 was the 24th – and the 21-year-old admitted the prospect of making history had crossed his mind before he missed a short birdie putt on the 17th.
“It sort of went through my mind on 17 that 62 would have been the lowest round in a Major. That’s probably why I missed the putt,” said McIlroy, who joins England’s Paul Broadhurst (St Andrews 1990) as the only players to shoot rounds of nine-under in the Open, and also now has the lowest opening round in Open history.
“It was a fantastic score. I didn’t get off to a flying start. I was one- under through eight holes and then the eagle on nine (where he holed from 15 feet after a drive to the green) really sort of turned things around for me and I just got going from there.”
Asked if he was annoyed to miss out on the record, McIlroy – who carded a closing 62 to win his maiden US Tour title at Quail Hollow earlier this season - added: “No, I don’t think I can come off feeling let down. I’m leading the Open Championship.
“But definitely the one on 17 was one I let get away. I had a very similar (second) shot in 2007, same club. The pin was sort of tucked more around the bunker, but I hit a six iron there to three feet and made that putt that day.
“Today it looked as if it had to go a little bit right to left. I just said: ’I’m going to hit it firm and I’m going to hit it straight’. I hit it and I pushed it a little bit.”
Remarkably, McIlroy feels he has shot a better round than today, namely a 61 at Royal Portrush almost five years ago to the day in the North of Ireland Amateur Open when he was just 16.
“I think today probably is the most special just because it’s at St Andrews and it’s the Open Championship. I think the 61 was probably slightly better, if I’m honest,” he added.
“It’s nice to put my name on the few guys that have shot 63 in Majors. It would have been lovely to shoot 62, but I can’t really complain.”