JB Holmes leads the Open as nightmare days for Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods leave them out of contention

JJ Bull
Rory McIlroy finds thick rough on his way to a quadruple bogey eight at the first - AP
Rory McIlroy finds thick rough on his way to a quadruple bogey eight at the first - AP

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods took the headlines on the opening day of the Open at Royal Portrush - but not for reasons anyone would have expected.

McIlroy's day was a disaster from the off, taking eight at the first hole for a quadruple-bogey he never recovered from. The Northern Irishman finished his day eight-over, and faces an uphill struggle to even make the cut.

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The same can be said for Tiger Woods, who didn't suffer a nightmare hole like McIlroy, but rather struggled all day. He registered just one birdie, at the 15th, on the way to a score of seven-over.

The leader in the clubhouse going into day two is the American JB Holmes, whose round of five-under gives him the faintest bit of breathing room from Irishman Shane Lowry, who is one back.

Jon Rahm looked to be surging towards an overnight lead, but faltered late, two bogeys on the final four holes pushing him back to three-under.

He's joined there by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Lee Westwood, but perhaps most ominously, Brooks Koepka. The American's unparalleled form at major tournaments this year makes him the one to watch on Friday.


Big hitters now back in the clubhouse

The main players are all done now, as day one at the Open draws to a close. It's worth keeping an eye on Englishman Ashton Turner, who's three-under, and Yuki Inamori, who's dropped back to two-under, but otherwise we know pretty much where we're at heading into Friday's action.

That's us done with the live updates, but we'll be back again early tomorrow to bring you all the action from day two.


Disappointing finish for Rahm

That's a real shame. Rahm has a six-footer for par at the 18th but knocks it past the hole, meaning he'll finish three-under when he once had the outright lead at five-under. A good start nonetheless, but he'll be annoyed to have dropped two shots on the final four holes.

Rahm's playing partner Matt Kuchar ends with a par, and a day of one-under. It's the same for Patrick Cantlay, who's bogied the last but enjoyed a fairly solid opening day.


Tiger registers a 78

<span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Credit: Reuters

He can't find the hole with that par putt, and that sums up his day really. Tiger Woods finishes seven-over, one better than Rory McIlroy for the day. Who would have predicted those two scores 12 hours ago?


One last chance for Rahm to regain lead

He's just parred the 17th, and so will go into the last one off JB Holmes' five-under. Can the Spaniard produce the goods on 18 and end day one atop the leaderboard?

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods has gone aggressive at the last, and why shouldn't he? He's got nothing to lose at this point. It's working for him too - he has a chance at par after a poor tee shot put him in a world of trouble.


Jason Day into the clubhouse at one-under

Not a bad day for Jason Day, another player who's always dangerous at majors. He'll be disappointed with a bogey at the last, after just missing with a longish putt from the fringe, but he's still well positioned going into day two.


Woods pars the 17th

He taps in and remains six-over with one hole to play. He's going to have to pull something very special out of the bag tomorrow if we're to see him at the weekend. Same goes for Rory McIlory.


Toby Finau registers a clean round

He'll be very satisfied with that. Finau holes a short par putt on the 18th to mean he's not dropped a shot all day, and will finish on three-under. He's been a strong performer in recent majors, expect him to be there or thereabouts through the weekend.


Justin Rose finishes two-under

<span>Credit: PA </span>
Credit: PA

The Englishman has a long chance to birdie the 18th after a good approach shot. He can't find the hole, but will finish his round two-under. Another strong British hope who has gone strangely under the radar so far this week.


Inamori going well

On the par-three 16th Jon Rahm has found that big dip to the left of the green which everyone seems to have ended up in today. He does well out of it, putting to within about four feet. I won't jinx him by saying he'll get this one, though...

Let's join Yuki Inamori on the 13th. The Japan Open champion is three-under and comes close to going one better, just missing with a 15-foot birdie chance. He's worth keeping an eye on.


Westwood finishes three-under

Better news for Lee Westwood, who's just birdied the last to finish his round three-under. He's well in the hunt.


Rahm drops a shot

That par putt I said Rahm should make easily? Yeah, he missed it. A rare misstep from him today, and it takes him back to four-under.


Leaderboard update


 So here's how we look at we draw towards a close on day one. JB Holmes is the leader in the clubhouse, with Jon Rahm still out there level with him on five-under. Shane Lowry recorded a good 67 earlier, while the likes of Justin Rose and Lee Westwood are two-under, and have a chance to move onto that first page. 


Our new joint leader

<span>Credit: PA </span>
Credit: PA

 Here's JB Holmes moments before sinking the putt that gave him a share of the lead on day one of the Open. The man with him, Jon Rahm, looked in a spot of bother on the 15th after his wedge shot fell short of the green, but a good recovery means he should still scrape a par.


JB Holmes into the clubhouse at five-under

JB Holnes with a chance to join Jon Rahm at five-under here, with a fairly straight-looking putt on the 18th. He nails it, and will stride into the clubhouse with a share of the lead. A good round for the American, especially considering he started with a bogey.

Meanwhile, Justin Rose goes close with a long birdie attempt at 17, and it's good enough to get him a par which will keep him at two-under.


Tiger finally finds a birdie

Jon Rahm has a good attempt at a very tricky birdie putt from the fringe, and should be able to knock in the resulting four-footer for par... he does, and will move onto the 15th still alone atop the leaderboard.

Now to a man with very different fortunes, Tiger Woods, seven-over, has a long chance for his first birdie of the day at 15. It's looking good, very good... and it's in! He's still going to face an uphill struggle to even make the cut, but boy did Tiger need that!


Rose makes a good birdie

Justin Rose is inching his way up the leaderboard. He's just sunk a nice birdie putt from the edge of the green on the 16th to move to two-under, and is right in the hunt here on opening day.

He's one of a number of English hopes, with Andrew Wilson and Lee Westwood both level with Rose at two-under, and Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton both at three-under. The young Scot Robert MacIntyre also had a great first day - he's three-under too, just a couple of shots off Rahm's lead.


Rahm a little errant off the tee

Here's Rahm on the 458-yard 14th, and he's hooked it a little bit. He misses the fairway but the lie doesn't look to bad.

Scoot up the the 17th, and Lee Westwood will be happy with his tee shot. It flirted with rolling back into the bunker but didn't follow through.


Westwood with one of the shots of the day

Beautiful stuff. Birdie on the par three 16th with a ball that rolls perfectly around a little bump in the green and slots in. Some of the greens on this course are quite crazy golf-ish.

lee westwood
lee westwood


Jon Rahm can take the lead again

He's a little short on a massive eagle putt but close enough that the birdie is doable. That'll put him back on top at -5. And he does it. Seems like the late starters have had the best of the weather and are making use of it.


It's a lovely evening now

We've had about four massive rain showers during the day but the course now looks like a Hollywood movie. Someone has to either win something, realise something or fall in love to complete the look. If it could be Tiger Woods falling in love with golf that might help because he still looks like he'd rather be at home watching Netflix.


Rahm back to -4

His first bogey of the day takes him down to joint leader rather than the nice little pole position he had. 

Tiger Woods is still playing but not doing particularly well. Six over, misses a putt for par and it looks like Woods will be joining McIlroy in the horror zone. 


Jason Day doing really well

It looks like Jason Day has hit a brilliant shot, chipping onto the green near the pin and setting up a birdie, but hte ball keeps rolling, then rolls some more and before you know it he's got a really difficult shot coming up.

day shot
day shot

Day takes on the shot as a putt... and is just wide of the pin.  


Jon Rahm enjoying himself

Lovely looking tee shot at 11. Rahm gets a nice contact on it and lands juuuuust on the fairway, kissing the longer grass beside it. Rahm is the leader just now -5.

Jason Day has crept up to -2. 


Tiger still looks a bit sad

The game is starting to slip away from him now. Sitting at six over he shoots too hard on a long putt on the 11th - not an easy one at all - and has a tricky putt for par. He takes it on quickly and sinks it for par.


More final scores coming in

This is a big birdie putt for Koepka and there's just not enough on it to reach the pin. Koepka will finish three under if he doesn't make a horrible error... and it's safe.

Sharma, who I've not mentioned all day, finishes with par on the 18th and on -1.


Koepka approaching the 18th

Fleetwood is inches away from sinking that massive putt to finish on -4 but has a simple putt for -3. Finau's third shot on the fifth is similarly inches away from dropping in next to the flag but he stays at -3. 

Koepka lands on the green with his second shot on the 18th. 


The fans are still out enjoying the golf

Even though it's raining again and many have been on the course all day long, the remaining players still have a decent sized crowd watching. And we have a new leader! Rahm is goes to -5 after a front nine of 31!


Tyrrell Hatton finishes on -3

Solid score for the Englishman. There are a heap of players three under now.

open scoreboard
open scoreboard

Fleetwood might be able to go one better though but only if he can sink a big putt. A more likely two putt will see him finish on -3 as well.


Tony Finau silently climbing the ladder

Haven't mentioned this guy all day but Tony Finau is -2. Finau is definitely wearing the best shirt of anyone on the course today. No photos of him yet but just trust me on it. Everyone else is dressed like a golfer. 


Fleetwood is on the 18th with a score of -3, which is pretty great. 


Woods still doesn't look right

But he keeps proving people wrong. He looks pretty frustrated as he stares at the floor while walking between shots even though his latest is a very decent and lands on the green. Is he feeling the back? Did he have a little too much rest between tournaments? Is it just that this course is eating the superstars alive?


Tyrrell Hatton

Meanwhile, Hatton has sneaked into the lead with a brilliant putt on the 17th for birdie. That's him at -4 now, joining Lowry and Koepka at the top. 

Now we're back with Tiger off the ninth. The fans go WOOOOOOO as he launches one up the fairway but I think he's hooked that to the left, as though he loses his balance during the follow through, and the ball might have landed in rough again.


Koepka still powering away

A 222 yard par three awaits Koepka on the 16th hole but he's probably going to have to settle for par as he lands a little short of the green.


The golf never ends

<span>Credit: R&A </span>
Credit: R&A

That's Tiger climbing out of a bunker, Justin Rose is par on the 10th hole and looks good for a birdie. He hits the back of a hill and it rolls just down to a slightly awkward distance from the hole. Should be a one but would take me three. 


Mistake by Reed

Reed tries to hit out from a difficult position but gets it wrong and watches the ball roll back down a hill. He finishes off with a six, having been given a free drop because the ball was embedded in said hill.

Tiger should be able to finish the seventh hole with a six, which will push him to plus four. Not a bad score when you consider they were playing through a storm a few minutes ago.


The golf music

Sounds awfully like this song:

 It's a different key but the same melody for "I've never had a dream come true".


Reed having a decent round

Or he was until a ball nearly clangs into a sitting cameraman by the rough. Reed is -1  at the moment.

Tiger has a wire thing right behind him as he stands behind an annoying hill... and both things must have put him off because he's hit it straight into the bank. "That's a strange shot" says the commentators, who reckon Tiger isn't walking comfortably. 


Brooks Koepka -4

He's good at the golf, that's all I'm saying. Joint first - we have a new (joint) leader!


It's a little strange that Sky Sports haven't shown more of his round. Still mostly focused on Rory, Tiger and a few randoms. I don't think we've seen many Jordan Spieth shots either.



 Exhibit A

<span>Credit: DAVID CANNON </span>

Exhibit B

<span>Credit: REX </span>
Credit: REX

Pretty cool though. It's probably lashing down now though. Woods is up to +3 and just wildly smashed one into the rough again.


The rain's back

And how. Reed tees off the seventh hole and I know that because the graphic onscreen tells us, despite the water on the camera making it feel like I've forgotten to put contact lenses in. 


Tiger Woods has expensive clubs

His putter is worth $20million apparently but I'm not sure that's great value because he's just missed a fairly easy (for him) putt to go one over. 


Portrush is brutal

I'd not be able to get through five minutes of this course without wanting to smash the golf trolley to bits. Woods is just a little over and the ball needs to roll back onto the green to make the shot close to decent. It rolls... and rolls... and oh god it rolls down a hill and far away. That'll need at least two shots to make par.


Still no change at the top

Lowry really has set the bar. Justin Rose can go -1 with a birdie putt on the seventh hole though and is having a good look at the green. It's a big ask and he's just a couple of inches wide. 


How the table looks

40 people under par

golf golf golf
golf golf golf

Brooks Koepka on -2, Henrik Stenson on -1, Lee Westwood currently -1 on six. 



Shinkwin points right because he's fired a shot into the wall of the stand. It makes a very satisfying CRACK noise as the ball hits into something metal and that'll be an interesting next shot. Currently sitting two under as he approaches the 18th green.


Fleetwood hooks one

A lot of power on Fleetwood's latest shot but it hooks left and a lot of shouting is done to make sure he doesn't accidentally murder any innocent golf watchers walking alongside the course. 


Brendan Grace

A lot of people on courses like this aim low. The wind's your friend, try to ride it. I like the wind. In a wind like this I would maybe aim 10 yards left.


Matt Wallace out of bounds

Woops. Too much on the tee shot for Wallace on the fourth, straight after Woods smacks a power drive down the middle of the fairway. Patrick Reed is up after and shoots past Woods ball... keeps rolling... and stops just before it skips over a hill and into a bunker.


I love Norm Macdonald



Rory McIlroy talks

Understandably nervous on the first tee, bad lie on the second tee shot, wasn't the ideal start, but I felt I battled back, showed some resilience, held it together in some tough circumstances, lost a bit of concentration on the back nine. But yeh just one of those days. 

I always get nervous on the first tee whether it's Portrush or wherever. The first tee shot didn't help, but it almost settled me down - you can't get off to a worst start than that! The support was fantastic, I really tried to let it be known I appreciate the support. It was a tough day, rough start, tough finish, dreadful score.


Drop shots

justin rose
justin rose

Justin Rose gets a drop shot so his third effort on the par four hole needs to be good... and he gets a little too much on it. Into the rough.


Tiger finds the green

Tiger's tee shot on the third hole puts him just a few feet away from the pin. 


Rickie Fowler's new look

<span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>

With a moustache and what looks like a mullet, Fowler has come dressed as a golf crime lord from a Grand Theft Auto game. He's doing well at the golf (can't confirm about the crime) and is -1.

Tiger Woods is still at par after two holes. Fleetwood should be good for -2 after eight. Koepka is just behind him on the course with exactly the same score.


Spieth on the 8th

Jordan has started well and has a -3. Some big names have started badly but none as awful as Rory McIlroy. Let's see how Tiger gets on.


Rory McIlroy finishes on +8



What on earth has happened to Rory?

The last hole is a par four. Rory has just hit his fourth shot so badly that it's nestled in grass next to a wall on one of the stands. This is one of those rounds where you just turn off the console and go for a walk before trying to play anymore. There is no 'load game, try again'. Only McIlroy, hitting bad shot after shot.


Tiger in the bunker

Not a great start to the round. He takes it out the rough but the ball keeps rolling back and ends up deep in the sand, some golf pros on the commentary team are questioning his shot selection for it too.

Wallace lands just slightly over the green and it also being questioned. Reed does exactly the same thing. Apparently the ball aquaplanes off the grass on this course.


Enter: Tiger Woods

Is this Tiger's moment to shine? Game number 46, big ROAR of appreciation for Tiger as he steps up. An iron shot off the first... that looks to have gone right... but I don't know anything and it's ended up in the rough just left of the fairway.

Matt Wallace is Tiger's friend today and will want to hit a better effort than the one he's just watched. He whacks it miles away and the ball has ended up somewhere on some green grass. I have no idea where it is because the camera shows some sky, then grass at pretty close up. Patrick Reed then steps up and hits a mystery shot. Is it good? I can't tell you. 

Tiger has a little grimace after that tee shot. Here's hoping that's not because of his back.


Kisner with a beauty

That's a looooong putt to birdie the 16th (a par three) and move to -1. He's had a decent round. This is what the leaderboard looks like right now:

open leaderboard
open leaderboard



Another blight on McIlroy's card

Oh Rory, Rory, Rory. He had worked hard to keep himself in check and his head screwed on after that opening eight, but some of that work is undone at the 16th. 

Three putts from not much more than five feet, and the second miss was from about 18 inches. Double-bogey five. 


What of the Americans?

A grim morning for the Americans but they are starting to make their way onto the leaderboard. We have mentioned Koepka's unruffled start but Spieth is running hot after a third birdie of the day at the fifth. 

Charlie Hoffman, Aaron Wise and Andrew Putnam also in red figures. As is Rickie Fowler- who played supremely well as a youngster in dreadful weather at Sandwich in 2011. The year Darren Clarke won.


All four seasons in a day in these parts...lovely now

<span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Credit: Getty Images


Some crackers here...

14:48 Justin Rose (Eng), Tony Finau (US), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den)

14:59 Dustin Johnson (US), Jason Day (Aus), Keegan Bradley (US)

15:10 Tiger Woods (US), Matt Wallace (Eng), Patrick Reed (US)

15:21 Patrick Cantlay (US), Jon Rahm (Spa), Matt Kuchar (US)


Some more big names on the way

Tommy Fleetwood has had a fair-to-middling season in 2019, but he is under par thru six and enjoying a steady start. 

Just caught a glimpse of the par-three 16th and at 236 yards it is a brute, with a huge ravine of thick grass short and right. Players are bailing out left and with the wind blowing in that direction a number of shots have flown into the crowd. Wouldn't fancy standing there if it were me. 

Justin Rose is making his way to the first tee.


Finishing up on 18

It's been raining and blowing a gale...so of course 1999 champion Paul Lawrie is under par. The best player in the world in waterproofs. That's what they used to say on the European Tour, anyway. 

Henrik Stenson was well-backed this week - he is back in the house with a one-under 70. That's fine for starters. 

Schauffele's par putt at 18 slips by and that's a three-over 74 for the man with some hot major form. A bit disappointing given he was a couple under early doors. 

Rotten finish for McDowell as well: a triple at the last means he has played the last four holes in five-over. Yuck. A blocked drive at 18 to blame. 

There's a reason 'one shot at a time' is such a cliche - as soon as the clubhouse and a 67 was in sight he went to pieces.


Koepka looking serene

Ominous. That's how you would describe Brooks Koepka's start at two-under thru five, during which he has barely seen the trouble that is ensnaring the rest of them. Left hand off the club at the sixth, but despite his disgust it's on the left fringe and puttable. 

Good stuff too from Jordan Spieth, who has reached the same score after four holes. Par fives at 2 and 7 and the drivable par-four fifth - there might be a hot start out there as the sun peeks through at Portrush this afternoon.


Where's Rory?

On the 15th hole and finally playing shots that don't fly into the rough. He's back! Sort of. At +3.


Sergio Garcia on his 68

Very happy with it. It's a challenging course, have to drive the ball very well. Overall I felt like every part of my game was in good shape, hit irons well, putted nicely, pretty satisfied!

It's very good but I love Carnoustie. This is different to what we're used to, elevation changes, big mounds. 

[The greens] are not very quick. I was able to roll that 20 footer for a birdie. You just got to realise you have to hit a little harder - I was striking in the middle of the club head, which helps.


Kiradech Aphibarnrat is 'really nice'

He'll be delighted with that description from the Sky Sports commentary team. Extra points for his greatly improved English as he finishes off his round to end on -3.


Graeme McDowell closing up

The Northern Ireland native is on the 17th but doesn't get the greatest contact on his putt. Should be safe to keep his -2 score. It's a difficult putt though... and he's missed. That's two shots gone and he goes to the 18th at -1.

And on the 13th, McIlroy almost sinks a birdie! But he doesn't. Good battle to keep his score at +3.


The rain has gone

It's pretty lovely way over on the 14th hole. Blue skies and sun. Oosthuizen is on the fourth and wearing gloves on both hands though. Is that for grip or warmth? 

Stenson is on the 17th at -1 and has a difficult second shot heading towards the crowd. 


This makes perfect sense

I cannot understand why it hasn't been the usual approach for longer.



McIlroy in the rough again


His tee shot lands off where he'd like it to but the worst bit is the swing needed to chop it out of this rough ends up sending the ball with pace over one side of the green and down the hill on the other. Into rough. If he overhits the next shot, he'll be on the other side of the green again. Really isn't going well.


Robert MacIntyre on the last hole

The Scot is -4 and should be able to two-putt his way to a par finish on the 18th. But it's a bogey. -3 in the first round of his first ever major.

Fleetwood has pulled a shot on the fourth hole, it lands between two bunkers and might roll into one... but he gets away with it and has a clean lie on the top of the wee hill. 


Lots of 'woo' noises

There are some excited fans out on the course today, not bothered by that shower of rain which nearly drowned the course. That seems to have passed now.


Putting all over the world

Fleetwood misses an easy putt to stay level at par. McDowell tries to let the green carry his ball into the hole like it's crazy golf but shoots just over. Casey has a difficult putt on 11 for par and.... aaaaaand.... aaaaaaand sinks it to stay at -1. Fritelli on the 18th hole for a par... is wide and finishes on -3. 

These greens are beating a lot of top players today.


Look at all the golf

golf scoreboard
golf scoreboard



It is absolutely pelting it down

The holes will be filling up with water at this rate. Umbrellas everywhere.

Here's a little graphic of McIlroy's horror start to the Open.


Shane Lowry on top

Lowry finishes -4 putting him top of the leaderboard as Simpson has managed to drop two shots somewhere along the way. Lowry's delighted he got lucky with a drop due to a rabbit hole.

As Lowry is chatting to the Sky Sports people, the cameras cut to Rory McIlroy, who is on the 11th hole and managed to hit two shots in a row straight into the rough. It's pouring down with rain now too, which won't be a lot of fun.


Bogey start for Fleetwood

This course is proving to be fairly challenging for all concerned. Fleetwood finishes +1 on the first hole. 

Kisner's round has stuttered too with a ball landing in rough threatening to undo his -4 score. He chips over some bushes onto the green but is way short, then putts past the hole and isn't guaranteed a one shot to sink it... which could put him down to -2. 


Fleetwood is up

Tommy Fleetwood steps up for his first shot of the day and smashes n iron straight down the middle. Olesen is his partner for the round and hits into the rough just next to the fairway. 


This seems exceptionally unfair

fowler putt
fowler putt

Fowler makes this beautiful putt but the ball slows down and stays stuck to the rim of the hole. Everyone waits. Waits a bit longer. 

ball sitting on the edge
ball sitting on the edge

An official golf rule evolved from the five second 'dropped food on the ground' law means Fowler gets 10 seconds to wait for this to fall in the hole.

It doesn't. 


Sergio's playing well

Sergio Garcia is just a little short with a big putt on the 16th after a lovely tee shot but he won't mind because -3 is a decent score at this stage. It's actually the second best score of the day so far and there shouldn't be too much difficulty in sinking the next putt for par.


Here's a video about golf

Made this a few years ago. Make sure your volume isn't too high before you watch.



Simpson, eh?

Webb Simpson saves par on the 15th to remain at -5.

Kisner is chasing and is inches away from a birdie at -3 from a massive putt at the back of the green on what I think is the sixth hole.

Harrington is just wide of the hole for par on the final hole and drops another shot, finishing on +4. The bad luck of the Irish strikes.


More on Rory



What's Rory up to?

Here he is on the 7th hole, hitting a perfectly acceptable chip shot that should give him the chance to one-putt his way to a birdie or more likely, two putt to par or three to continue his horrible round.

<span>"Look... over there... my chances of winning. There they are"</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
"Look... over there... my chances of winning. There they are" Credit: PA



Hot Golf Action

Hello everyone, it's your boy JJ Bull, ready for an entire day of Hot Golf Action. Can't wait. Love that golf.

The interesting chat so far is that Rory McIlroy is having a a nightmare, Tiger Woods' pals won't text him back and some golfers I don't know are currently leading the scoring. That's just soooo Open. 

Romain Langasque dropped a couple of shots to finish on -2, which leaves a man called Webb on -5.


Simpson and Lowry impressive, while McIlroy struggles

Cracking shot into the ninth from Russell Knox who has a very presentable chance to reach two-under at the turn. 

Stenson furious with himself for finding the right rough at the 10th, but he plays a brilliant recovery shot to find a bowl very adjacent to the pin. 

McIlroy on the par-five seventh - a chance to get one back - and he hits a lovely drive right down the middle. Should be able to have a go at the green in two from there. 

I'll leave you in the capable hands of JJ Bull for the next passage of play. 


Simpson our new leader

Four birdies in the space of six holes now for Webb Simpson who is the new tournament leader at five-under par. Another putt from way downtown - he must have amassed some footage of putts holed already. Some Americans never find the measure of links courses, others relish it and he seems to be in the second category. Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler are two more who do. 

Keeping an eye on the American challenge, Schauffele has reached the turn in a steady one-under. 


Is it finally Sergio's time?

McIlroy safely aboard the par-three sixth green and it's another fine lag putt to within inches for another par. The putting looks in good order for McIlroy, unusually it's the long game that seems errant. 

Sergio Garcia, who has a stack of Open top-10s is also going well and has reached three-under. 


Lowry holds steady

Lovely roll from the fringe at the 14th for Lowry, but it just hangs on the lip on the right edge. Still, it's another par and if you offered him a seat in the clubhouse at his current score of four-under he would sign for it. 


Simpson the demon putter


McIlroy escapes

Tidy stuff from Molinari from is even par thru his first six holes, and Stenson has just made a birdie to reach one-under.

Brilliant putt from 50 feet or so for McIlroy, grazes the hole and that's a tap-in par. It's all a bit of a scramble at the moment though. 

McDowell is two-over through eight and safely in the ninth fairway. 


Tester on the way for Rory

McIlroy way right of the short par-four fifth, behind a scoreboard and on a steep upslope in the hay. Does well to gouge it out towards the front of the green, and that should eliminate the chance of another big number. Still a testing two putt for par. Another dropped shot would take him to six-over, and it would be almost impossible to win from there. 


A few bolters at the top of the leaderboard

Alex Noren was winning everything in Europe a while back whe he made the Ryder Cup team, but has had a very average season so far. Always a strong player in the breeze with his trusty fade and steep angle of attack, and it is working well for him so far this week at four-under.

American Webb Simpson is also on the same score - he is a really accurate iron player and a demon with putter. Won the 2012 US Open at Olympic Club near San Fransisco, a course with possibly the smallest greens in the world.


Kisner continues to go under the radar

Kevin Kisner just loves links golf, he rolls in another long birdie putt to move to three-under. This was his eagle at the second: 


Lowry back on top

Well played James Sugrue, the Amateur Champion, who has knocked his way around in even-par which is a cracking knock on the first morning of an Open. He is battling an infected bite in his calf. 

Same score for Darren Clarke who had an up and down day with several birdies and plenty of bogeys. 

Bounce back from Lowry, who pitches from the thick stuff at the par-five 12th and rolls in a 15-footer for his birdie. New leader again. 


Darren finishing up

Darren Clarke on the 18th now and finds the green in two, the graphic on TV says the wind is blowing at 15mph now which is more than enough to get the players' attention. 

Solid start from Graeme McDowell at one-under thru six, and it is about to get a good deal better as he fires his second at the par-five seventh to within a few feet for eagle. 


Lowry falls back to the pack

McIlroy finds the green at the fourth, but realistically he is looking at two putts for par rather than one for birdie. 

Bogey for Lowry over at 11 means he is back at three-under and the Scot Robert MacIntrye is in the lead. 


More trouble for Rory

Kevin Kisner played beautifully at the Open last year and he is off to a fine start this with an eagle at the second. 

Bogey McIlroy at the third and he is yet to turn into the wind when the course will bare its teeth even more. Was not the a terrible tee shot at the par-three but it ran into a nasty lie through the back and he was unable to get up and down.

Speaking of which, we might be getting a glimpse at the difficulties of the closing holes - Darren Clarke has frittered away a couple and drops back to one over with a bogey at the 17th. 


Lowry's shot-making proving invaluable

Meanwhile as Rory flounders, the old stager Darren Clarke is going great guns at one-under.

McIlroy had a chance to respond at the par-five second but another putt slips past and he remains a four-over. 

Shane Lowry playing the best of the early golf at four-under through 10 holes. 


It was worse than I thought...

McIlroy's tee shot flew out of bounds, and his provisional also found the wet, claggy rough that lines these fairways. 

Playing four, the rough turns the clubface down and McIlroy's approach flies left of the greenside bunker and finds what look like thistle plants and horrible thick grass. It's unplayable!

So McIlroy takes two club lengths relief under penalty, so his pitch onto the green is his seventh!

He has a six foot putt or so for a triple bogey seven. Nightmare stuff, not unlike when Woods lost a ball at St George's in 2003.

The putt slips by and it's a snowman  - quadruple bogey eight at the first. 


Rory off to an inauspicious start

Well, well...Rory's hero Tiger Woods has hit some iffy first tee shots down the years and McIlroy has hit a nasty pull into thick rough. He only had an iron in his hands so that's a bit of a shocker, a good 20 yards off line. 

If you put him on the driving range with a long-iron I reckon he'd hit one like that once every 100 attempts. That's pressure for you. The body gets tense and cannot clear in the downswing, the arms take over and the clubface flips left. 


Hole in one!

Emiliano Grillo has aced the par-three 13th. At other tournaments he might expect a car or speed boat for his efforts but that's far too vulgar for the Royal and Ancient. He'll probably get some crystal. 


Quite the scene

A foreign object known as the sun is casting its light on Portrush at long last.  

<span>Credit: PA </span>
Credit: PA


New leader

Left-handed Scot Robert Macintyre is the new leader after holing a monster eagle putt across the fifth green - that's the short par four. Has a par-five on the way at seven so perhaps a chance to reach the uncharted waters of four-under par - no player has been better than three this morning. 


The champ begins his first round

Molinari, DeChambeau and Scott on the first tee now. How will Molinari fare in his defence of the Claret Jug? The premium on finding fairways at Portrush should be up his alley, but I'm not sure his iron play has been the sharpest this season. 

DeChambeau's qualitative analysis and use of data seems an awkward fit with the oddities of links golf, which is far more an art than a science. Those two tee shots are a few feet from one and other down the left flank, but Molinari's is in the semi rough. 

Fairway found by Scott, who really should have won the 2012 Open at Lytham but he gifted it to Ernie Els. Scott hit the wrong club off the 72nd tee and found a pot bunker when a safety iron would have sufficed. 


Hole out on the first

Well that's one day to make a three - Scot Connor Syme hacked out into the fairway after a wayward first tee shot and then jammed his wedge approach straight into the hole for birdie. 

That one will make tonight's highlight reel. 


Plenty of birdied to be had at the second

Beautifully done from Stenson with his pitch from left of the second - takes the bank in front of him out of play by lofting the ball straight onto the green and skipping it up to the holeside. That's a certain birdie. 

Shane Lowry, up ahead at the second par-five on the front nine the seventh, makes hard work of a two-putt par but make par he does. 

Schauffele also makes the simplest of birdies at the second and he is two-under thru two. 

Fabulous approach from Darren Clarke at the downwind par-three 13th, riding the breeze to access the bak left pin and he will have not much more than five feet for birdie. 


Always a crowd favourite


A logjam at two-under now

Back to the second and Stenson hates his second shot to the par-five. It doesn't look to bad upon landing but he knows better than us about the contours of this green and his ball duly feeds down into a run-off area left. 

Lovely stuff from Brandon Wu, fancied to win the Silver Medal for top amateur this week, he reaches the turn at two-under. 


Not long until Rory

This par-five second is very reachable this morning with wind at the players back and McDowell has squeezed an iron up to the front edge. 

It will be easily in range for McIlroy who is just warming up on the range. Langasque has fallen back to two-under alongside a host of players including Lowry, Pepperell, Alex Noren, Robert Macintyre and Sungjae Im. 


Schauffele off to the perfect start

And Schauffele does indeed convert from just inside 20 feet for a birdie three at the first, a fine start. My mistake on that earlier post, Stenson was actually inside him but he blasts his putt through the break and will settle for a four. McDowell holes out from four feet to scramble for par. 

Poulter has struck a majestic long iron into the par-five second and will have an eagle chance from 12 feet or so. 


What a moment for Darren...


Chances for birdies coming up on one..

Three nice approaches into the first in the Schauffele, Stenson, McDowell group with the former setting up the best birdie chance of the three. Anytime you find the first green of an Open in regulation though its a case of stress-free satisfaction. 


There is a player at three-under

It's that man Romain Langasque. Thomas Levet and Jean van de Velde, the latter in farcical circumstances, have gone to close to the Claret Jug but there has not been a French winner since Arnaud Massy in 1907. 


A plum threeball

Now this is a tasty group: home favourite Graeme McDowell (who has quietly been finding some form), 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson (who has also been finding some form) and American Xander Schauffele (who when it comes to majors is never out of form). 

Lots of support for Stenson and Schauffele this week. GMac, perhaps a little tense and pumped up at a home Open, pulls his long iron slightly into the first cut of rough but no disaster. 



Another player gets to two-under and its Andrew 'Beef' Johnston who played so well at Birkdale two years. 

He only qualified for the Open by the skin of his teeth after some trying times, but he has holed an absolute tram-liner at the par-five second for eagle. Must have been more than 60-feet up over a ridge to the back tier of the green and it rolled perfectly into the middle of the cup. 

<span>Credit: PA </span>
Credit: PA


Poulter off and running

Ian Poulter is getting his round started, and finds the first fairway safely. Just an iron off the tee which suggests there is some wind at his back so it should be a fairly gentle start for the players this morning. 

Make the most of it, because when they turn around and face the breeze it will get hairy. 


Fast start from Lowry

Shane Lowry has just produced one of the shots of the day - not many will better it - at the short par-four fifth. 

With helping breeze from the left the green is within range with driver and Lowry has threaded one perfectly up the mouth of the green and it scared the hole for a albatross. Still, a 15-footer for eagle upcoming. 

Great chance to join the leaders. 

A interesting link - Lowry played well at the Canadian Open last month, a tournament won by Rory McIlroy. It's halfway across the world but that venue was designed by Harry Colt - just like Portrush. 


What's on the menu this morning?

  • 0903 -Ian Poulter, England; Sungjae Im, South Korea, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thailand.

  • 0914 -Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Xander Schauffele, United States; Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland.

  • 0925 -Li Haotong, China; Russell Knox, Scotland; Bernd Wiesberger, Austria.

  • 0936 -Jason Kokrak, United States; Connor Syme, Scotland; Austin Connelly, Canada.

  • 0947 - Zach Johnson, United States; David Duval, United States; Corey Conners, Canada.

  • 0958- Francesco Molinari, Italy; Bryson DeChambeau, United States; Adam Scott, Australia.

  • 1009 -Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland; Gary Woodland, United States; Paul Casey, England.


Phil Mickelson level par thru three

<span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Credit: Reuters

A very svelte Mickelson has travelled across the Atlantic this week thanks to a whacky diet of nitro-coffee and organic water or some such nonsense. We applaud his efforts, but it does sound a little midlife crisis crossed with Californian self-improvement industry. Or should that be racket? 

Darren Clarke has now reached the turn at two-under, so halfway to posting a first-round score in the 60s which would be a cracking story.


Who better to show you around?

The only piece of recent course history at our disposal is the 2012 Irish Open at Portrush won by Jamie Donaldson.

Luckily, Donaldson has given us a guided tour of the course which will come in handy at this unfamiliar venue. 

The full course guide can be read here.

But here are his thoughts on the opening holes: 

1st Hughies, 421 yards, par four

There is out of bounds down the right, although what is at the forefront of your mind is staying out of the fairway bunker on the left. There is a steep incline to the green.

2nd Giant's Grave, 574 yards, par five

When I won there, this par five was 50 yards shorter and the extra length might stop a few from going for the green in two. There are pot bunkers guarding the putting surface. 

3rd Islay, 177 yards, par three

It looks straightforward enough, with only one bunker, but the thing with his hole is that it exposed to whatever wind there is and the green slopes from right to left.


One or two form players starting well...

Eight of the last 10 Open winners have played the previous week, and one or two players who popped up on the links-based Irish and Scottish Opens are going well in the early stages. 

Frenchman Romain Langasque - who finished third on his own in Scotland last week - is tied with Clarke at two-under thru four. 

Also in red figures are Irish hopefuls Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington as well as Englishman Eddie Pepperell. 

Pepperell's links game is almost as reliable as hisTwitter game: T4 in Ireland two weeks ago, T2 at the British Masters at Hillside and T6 at the Open last year. He also won last season's British Masters at Walton Heath which while an inland course, shares some of the bouncy characteristics of seaside layouts. 



The all important weather forecast

<span>Credit: BBC Weather </span>
Credit: BBC Weather

The word is late today-early tomorrow is the best side of the draw but looking at the forecast there is not too much bias, certainly nothing to rival Muirfield in 2002 when half the field - including Tiger Woods - were blown away in a storm. 

Thursday is the breeziest day but should dry up by the evening. The inclement conditions might explain Darren Clarke's fine start who is two-under thru seven. Clarke knows Portrush like his back garden thrives whenever he gets the chance to wear his waterproofs.  


First round preview

When the scores are tallied at the end of a golfer's career all major championships are considered equal, but there is no doubt the Masters and the Open Championship possess a special allure. 

As the oldest major of the four - first staged in 1860 at Prestwick when Willie Park Snr was the champion - it has the history. 

Played on cream of the British Isles' seaside courses where the land 'links' to the sea, the Open is also blessed with dramatic natural scenery before which the drama unfolds. 

This year we return to Royal Portrush on Northern Ireland's north coast for the first time since 1951, which was indeed the last time the Open was held outside of Scotland or England. 

That gives us precious little to go on when it comes to course analysis but the fickle features of links golf will be present: wild weather, cruel bounces, cavernous bunkers, gnarly knee-high rough and the luck of the draw. 

Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm are the three fancied players going into this first round and all have strong claims. 

McIlroy has been the world's best player this year based on week-to-week consistency, Koepka the major pedigree and a Portrush native as his caddie and Rahm the recent history of two Irish Open wins on links. 

Tiger Woods is never far from the spotlight, but frankly he seems more likely to miss the cut this week than lift the Claret Jug. 

The new condensed schedule with all four majors coming one month after the other seems to have puzzled Woods, who has struggled to balance staying sharp and staying fresh since that draining Masters triumph. 

He has only played one non-major tournament since then, which is a shame because the Open is the major that best suits the 43-year-old. We fancy he will take a different approach to his scheduling next year to avoid the same rustiness. 

Defending champion Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood are three magnificent ball-strikers who will attract plenty of support, but have perhaps not been their crispest this season. 

Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar lead the American charge, with Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickleson far too errant and Dustin Johnson seemingly out of sorts amid changes in his camp. 

Sticklers for tradition, the Open has every group teeing off the first rather than the usual two-tee start employed at other tournaments. 

That makes the first two days extraordinarily long with the first group off at 6.35am and the last off at 4.16pm. So settle in. 

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