The oldest championship in golf saw a few new, and some old faces atop the leader board early Thursday morning. Rory McIlroy is the early overall leader at the 2010 British Open.
McIlroy opened the tournament by tying the record for lowest score in the first round at the 150 year-old tournament. He shot a 9-under 63 amid the muggy morning conditions that usually keep players from shooting a low score. Many players donned sweaters to stay comfortable during their rounds. McIlroy benefited from an eagle on the par-4 ninth.
On the ninth McIlroy drove the green, then sunk the putt to put him ahead. The Northern Ireland native holed six birdies on the back nine for a 30 that tied the back-nine record in a major championship.
The weather got better, and the sun eventually made an appearance as John Daly was tearing up the course to become the top American player on the leader board. With his usual imaginative attire, Daly shot a 6-under 66 that equaled the best British Open round of his career. Daly won the Open Championship back in 1995 before almost losing his golfing career.
A sober, slimmer Daly put forth his best effort to become champion once again. The last time Daly shot a 66 was in 1993 at Royal St. George. His round could have been even better as four of his puts lipped out. On the 12th hole, the ball spun 180 degrees in the cup before failing to fall. That ended a streak of four straight birdies.
“It’s a golf course, I don’t know, I just love it. I don’t know why,” said Daly. “It suits my game. Just a special, special place.”
The defending St. Andrews champion Tiger Woods also made an attempt to put his off-course issues behind him by shooting a 5-under 67. He is currently going through divorce proceedings, but that didn’t stop him from shooting a 5-under 67. The world’s No. 1 ranked player is in jeopardy of losing the top spot to Phil Mickelson if he fails to finish among the leaders.
If Woods were to win the tournament, it would be his fourth British Open title, and his 15th major championship. That would make him only three majors behind Jack Nicklaus. Woods has won the last two Open Championships played at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005.
PGA sportsbooks have set Woods as the favorite to win his third straight St. Andrews British Open at 5/1 odds. Mickelson and McIlroy come in second in the betting odds at 16/1, and Daly is among the underdogs at 125/1 odds.