A lot will be said about Rory McIlroy’s leading 66 at The Open Championship on Thursday, but there are 54 holes yet to be played in the oldest major and things change quickly. Ask Ernie Els, who triple-bogeyed the first hole.
Confidently building towards a good week was Louis Oosthuizen, who birdied the first and last at Royal Liverpool on his way to a two-under-par 70. The 2010 Open Champion handed in a good looking scorecard that contained four birdies, two bogeys and plenty of promise.
The Mossel Bay local was joined on two-under-par by George Coetzee, who celebrates his birthday on Friday and made a long-overdue return to contention during the first round.
Coetzee looked solid on day one and kept a clean sheet during his back nine, where he added birdies at the 11th and 17th. The 2014 Joburg Open winner has been quiet this season, but his course record of 62 at St. Andrews is a good yard stick for how well he could perform this week.
There is no doubt that McIlroy is a favourite: after his 2011 US Open win there was a golf poll conducted in Britain and it found that 39 percent of British men aged between 18 and 24 were inspired to try golf because of him. He also set a new record for largest margin of victory at the PGA Championship in 2012.
Northern Ireland’s youngest star had a near-flawless 18 on Thursday and reached the clubhouse on six-under-par. He made no bogeys and three birdies on either side of the turn to overtake early leader Matteo Manassero.
“Anytime you shoot 66 at the Open Championship, you're going to be pleased,” said McIlroy. “We had perfect scoring conditions out there this morning.”
Well-placed and ready to surprise was Oosthuizen. Slow and steady wins the race.