After an error-free opening round of 66, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has made a strong start to the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

After an error-free opening round of 66, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has made a strong start to the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

McIlroy was one of the early starters and he made the most of the calm, warm conditions this morning at Hoylake. He cruised to the turn in 32 with birdies at the 2nd, 5th and 6th holes, and the Northern Irishman then made further gains at the 10th, 12th and 16th holes to finish the day on six-under-par.

The 25-year-old played a supremely controlled round of golf, avoiding trouble and playing to the right areas. He negotiated the par 5s well, with birdies at three of the four on the course.

“I stuck to my game plan, focused on the par fives and tried to pick up other shots. For the most part my ball was under control and I’m very happy,” he said.

McIlroy led the 2010 Open at St Andrews after a first round of 63, but he followed that with a second round of 80 to, effectively, end his chances of victory that week. In last week’s Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, McIlroy led after a first round of 64 but he followed up with a lacklustre 78.

Rory is confident, however, that tomorrow’s second round will not be a similar struggle.

“I’m playing well, swinging the club really nicely, I holed some nice putts and I’ll try to continue to do that and hopefully have another solid round tomorrow. I won’t approach it differently,” he said.

Tiger Woods battled well to record a three-under-par 69. The 14-time Major champion who triumphed at Royal Liverpool the last time The Open visited in 2006, opened his account with two consecutive bogeys, but he went on an incredible run through the back nine with five birdies in six holes from the 11th.

“I figured out how to manage my way around the golf course after an awful start,” he said. “It feels great to be competing again at the elite level. The more rounds I play I’m getting sharper and stronger.”

Italy’s Matteo Manassero holed a full shot to the first hole for a birdie three and he picked up six further birdies, with only two bogeys, in a five-under-par round of 67.

“Very, very pleased,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s just the perfect start. To make seven birdies you need quite a lot of long putts to drop and really, just a bit of good luck.”

It was an excellent first day for the Italians with the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, both shooting four-under-par 68s.

It was a good scoring day overall and, at time of writing, with a number of players still to finish their first rounds, there were no fewer than 50 players under par.

Australia’s Adam Scott had a chance to catch McIlroy. The Australian was four-under-par on the back nine after two birdies and an eagle on the front side.

There were some notable strugglers on day one, however: 1999 champion Paul Lawrie shot a disappointing 79 and Ernie Els was in a battle to break 80 midway through his back nine.

Spare a thought though for Australia’s Bryden MacPherson. He reached the turn in 41 then began the run for home 7,6,8,4,7. In the end he carded a 90 and was in last place by nine full shots.