Rory McIlroy has once again put himself in position to challenge for a long-awaited fifth Major, firing a near-faultless first-round 66 at what he has described as the "fiddliest" Open he has ever played.
Having once been plagued by an inability to get going at the game's marquee events, the Northern Irishman has become a Thursday specialist of late, with McIlroy taking advantage of relatively benign St Andrews conditions and baked-out Old Course fairways to sit just two back of Cameron Young.
"Yeah, fantastic start," he said. "Just sort of what you hope will happen when you're starting off your week. I did everything that you're supposed to do around St Andrews.
"It's so fast and firm. I had a wedge into 14, a 615-yard hole, and it's just the way the conditions are. The golf course is playing so, so short. But it's still tricky. It's another good start at a major. Three in a row for me now and I'm looking forward to the next few days.
"It's the fiddliest Open that I've played. It's the only way I can really describe it. It's just really fiddly out there. Carnoustie was firm in 2018, but it wasn't like this. OK, the 18th at Carnoustie was like a runway, but around the greens here and just all the slopes and undulations."
Video: Perks of winning The Open
McIlroy admitted links golf in its truest form "hasn't really been my forte over the years" but credited the work he's done to rediscover his best form, having experienced a slump this time last year after being seduced by the distance exploits of Bryson DeChambeau.
"I'm pretty good at this game. I think I know what I'm doing. I think I just needed to take ownership of it again. And I think that's where the freedom comes from. I wouldn't say technically my swing - it might be a little better than it was previously, but I think it's more me taking ownership of everything again."
A shot further back of McIroy is Players champion Cam Smith, while LIV Golf duo Lee Westwood and Talor Gooch are part of a logjam at four-under.
He said: "I think anybody that signed up to the LIV events, there was an element of risk about not playing in Majors and things like that [but] I don’t see why it should be like that, the four Majors for me stand alone.
"They’re four independent bodies and not on the other tours. The LIV Tour is just another Tour in the same way the South African Tour is, the Asian Tour is and the Australasian Tour is so to single out a tour is a bit unfair really"
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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