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  • The Open, Round One

McIlroy matches Woods on eventful day, Donald steady

ESPN staff
July 19, 2012 « Woods hunts leader Scott, woe for Westwood & Rose | Chartbeat test »

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Rory McIlroy flattened a spectator on day one of The Open - but he did not let it disrupt his title push as he finished his first round three shots behind leader Adam Scott.

McIlroy, whose drive at 15 hit a fan on the head, survived the punishing conditions late in the day - far more challenging than those that faced the morning starters - to sign for a three-under 67.

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Luke Donald had 16 pars in a subdued round of 70, which allows him to linger menacingly as part of the chasing pack. Earlier in the day, Tiger Woods posted an impressive 67 - the same score as Graeme McDowell, while Lee Westwood toiled to a 73. Nicholas Colsaerts has joined Paul Lawrie and Zach Johnson at five under.

Before McIlroy's out-of-bounds drive at 15, which cost him a double bogey, a glove and an apology, he was beginning to surge towards the top of the leaderboard: he birdied four of holes seven to 12, the last coming with a brilliant 25-foot putt.

He did not look like a man who has expressed indifference towards links golf in the past, nor like a man who arrived with four missed cuts from his last six starts. Dusting himself down and arriving at 16, he kept his composure, driving the green before two-putting for a birdie. He closed with a birdie at 18 following a terrific approach shot to seven yards, and has reason to suspect he could be sneaking towards a second major.

Donald will just be glad to have not played himself out of contention, as he did at both The Masters (opening round 75) and the US Open (opening round 79) earlier this year. It was a varied day for Donald: sometimes he hit greens and missed birdie putts, other times he got up and down in style, holing under pressure. The one birdie he did manage came from a brilliant 40-footer at three, while a poor second shot left him bunkered at the 18th, and ultimately cost him a stroke.

Two-time Open winner Padraig Harrington (70) never played like one of the favourites, particularly when he chipped from off the green straight into a bunker at four. However, he left the final hole having just pocketed a birdie - his fourth, to go with four bogeys - and has given himself a little breathing space ahead of the cut line.

Phil Mickelson gave the spectators plenty of close-up views, spraying the ball left and right - and, on a track as unforgiving as this, with thick shrubbery outside the fairway, he was never going to be able to recover. A tumultuous day ended with him signing for a 73.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 winner, had a 72, while Rickie Fowler had a 71.

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