When I went to sleep around 3 a.m. out here on the West Coast, John Daly was still amazingly cruising through the Old Course at 7-under, and that included a couple harsh lip-outs that could have made his round even lower. One of the last shots I saw was Rory McIlroy draining about a 20-footer for eagle after driving the ninth green to get to 3-under.
Little did I know, that putt started a filthy closing stretch by McIlroy, who went 8-under his final 10 holes, attacking limp flags and soft greens to shoot a major championship record-tying 63. McIlroy leads the British Open at 9-under by two strokes over South African Louis Oosthuizen, whose only bogey came on the Road Hole. Five players finished at 6-under, including Daly, and among those at 5-under are Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, and major champions Y.E. Yang and Lucas Glover.
The 21-year-old McIlroy has broken 70 in all nine of his competitive rounds at St. Andrews, and if it weren’t for missing a 3-foot birdie putt on the Road Hole, he would have shot the best round in 150 years of major championships on Thursday. McIlroy went on to birdie the 18th hole.
“I remember watching Tiger at the U.S. PGA in Tulsa [at Southern Hills in 2007], and he lipped out for 62,” McIlroy said. “I started thinking to myself if I can birdie this hole, I’ve got a chance of birdying the last.”
At 9-under after one round, could McIlroy challenge Woods’ scoring record of 19-under in 2000 at St. Andrews? If the ESPN broadcast is to be believed, the players who drew the morning pairings Thursday will once against catch a break Friday. Winds and rain picked up Thursday afternoon at St. Andrews, and the worse weather is expected Friday morning before lightening up in the afternoon.
“Today felt awkward because there was absolutely no wind whatsoever,” Woods said, “and you never play a links course with no wind.”
[AP Photo/Tim Hales]