PGA Tour rookie Cameron Young shot a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 Thursday to establish the early lead at The Open Championship at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland polished off a 6-under 66 to take sole possession of second at the midway point of the first round. Australia’s Cameron Smith (5-under 67) was three strokes back.
A group at 4-under 68 included English amateur Barclay Brown, fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, Kurt Kitayama, Australia’s Brad Kennedy and Norway’s Viktor Hovland. Paul Casey of England was 4 under through eight holes.
Seven of Young’s eight birdies came over the first 12 holes. One of the longest drivers on the PGA Tour, Young drove over the green at the short par-4 ninth, 12th and 18th holes, getting up and down for birdie each time.
In Young’s debut at The Open, he came up one shot shy of tying the lowest first-round score in championship history. The 25-year-old has yet to win as a professional, but he has five top-three finishes on the season, including a tie for third at the PGA Championship in May.
“I think we picked tee shots that were smart, and that kind of kept a lot of the bunkers out of play,” Young said on the television broadcast. “And then made a few putts early, which kind of set the tone for the day. All those things just added up to not feeling too hard out there, even though I know it could be impossible for me tomorrow.”
McIlroy, the four-time major winner and No. 2 player in the world, made three straight birdies at the fifth through seventh holes. He rebounded from his lone bogey at No. 13 with a birdie at the par-5 14th. At the 18th, he left an 84-foot eagle putt inches to the right of the cup for his final birdie.
Smith, winner of The Players Championship in March, drained a right-to-left, 55-foot birdie putt at the par-4 second to jump-start his round. He finished with six birdies and one bogey.
“I think it’s nice to get off to a hot start any week, really,” Smith said. “But these majors, I think the tougher the course gets, especially around here, how it’s going to get really firm and really fast, it’s almost going to be like holding on, I think, on the weekend.”
A large group at 3-under 67 included Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Ian Poulter of England. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was 3 under through eight holes.
Ernie Els, 52, used four birdies between the eighth and 12th holes to get to 5 under. But after bogeying No. 16, his drive at No. 17, the Road Hole, found the Old Course Hotel out of bounds. The two-time Open champion from South Africa made double bogey and wrapped up a 2-under 70.
Defending champion Collin Morikawa opened with an even-par 72, tied with a group that also included Phil Mickelson (three birdies, three bogeys).
Tiger Woods teed off late in the afternoon wave in Scotland. Woods, who won The Open at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005, was back competing in a major after skipping last month’s U.S. Open to rest his surgically repaired leg.
Woods hit his second shot on the opening hole out of a divot. His ball bounced into a creek in front of the green, leading to a double bogey.
Jon Rahm of Spain, Matt Fitzpatrick of England, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay were also part of the late afternoon wave just beginning their rounds.
–Field Level Media