Three years after virtually giving up on links golf, a more mature Rory McIlroy appears ready to give it another chance.
McIlroy tamed blustery conditions in the first round of the Scottish Open in Aberdeen to shoot a seven-under-par 64 on Thursday, giving him a one-stroke lead and showing his links game is in great shape ahead of next week's British Open at Hoylake.
“I feel I am as prepared as I have ever been to play this type of golf,” a smiling McIlroy said after rolling in eight birdies — six of which came in a stunning seven-hole spell from Nos. 8-14 at Royal Aberdeen.
How things have changed from 2011.
At a wet and wild British Open at Royal St. George's that year, a frustrated McIlroy opened his heart, saying he wasn't a fan of tournaments where the “outcome is predicted so much by the weather” and that “there's no point in changing your game for one week a year.”
Coming from someone who grew up playing on the links in his native Northern Ireland, it was a strange outburst. That seems to be in the past now.
“I'm going to make it my favorite style for two weeks a year,” said McIlroy, adding he was “relishing the challenge” of playing in the wind and rain.
Unheralded Swede Kristoffer Broberg — who went out in the first group at 6:30 a.m. local time — and Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina shot 65s to lie one shot behind McIlroy.
Michael Hoey, a compatriot of McIlroy, was a stroke further back after a five-under 66, and former world No. 1 Luke Donald was among four players to shoot 67. Phil Mickelson missed a three-foot par putt at the final hole for his only bogey in a 68, a solid start by the defending champion.
Uehara leads Women's British Open
Ayako Uehara of Japan felt confident with the putter and played in the best weather Royal Birkdale has to offer. It was the right combination to take the lead in the Women's British Open at Southport, England. And the best she could manage was a four-under 68.
Pot bunkers can present problems on any links course. Throw in some thick grass and par becomes a problem.
Michelle Wie could attest to that. The U.S. Women's Open champion spent too much time chipping out of sand and rough on her way to a 75. Cristie Kerr didn't make a birdie, shot 81 and withdrew with a sore back. Only nine players broke par, all but two of them in the relative calm of a sunny morning along the Irish Sea.
“It's only going to get harder,” defending champion Stacy Lewis said after a 71. “Anything under par on this golf course is a good score.”
Montgomerie leads U.S. Senior Open
Colin Montgomerie shot a six-under 65 in oppressive heat at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., to take the lead after the first round of the U.S. Senior Open.
The Scotsman started on No. 10 and birdied 14, 15 and 16 on the way to a 33 on the back nine. He birdied six, seven and eight to finish strong.
Marco Dawson is second after a 66. He also started on the back nine and shot two under, then was steady on the front nine before making birdies on seven, eight and nine.
Mark Brooks shot a 68 and is third. Bernhard Langer, who already has won three Champions Tour events this year, shot a two-under 69 and is in a five-way tie for fourth.
Three-way tie atop PGA's John Deere Classic
Zach Johnson, Rory Sabbatini and Brian Harman each shot eight-under 63 to share the lead after the first round of the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Ill.
Johnson and Sabbatini played bogey-free golf, while Harman had nine birdies and one bogey on the par-71 TPC Deere Run.
They led 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton, Australian Steven Bowditch and William McGirt, the best afternoon finisher, by a stroke. Brendon de Jonge, Kevin Tway, David Toms and Robert Streb are two back at six-under 65.