McIlroy opens with course-record 64 at Scottish

Rory McIlroy during the first round of the 2014 Scottish Open.
Rory McIlroy during the first round of the 2014 Scottish Open. ( Getty Images )

Thursday, July 10, 2014

ABERDEEN, Scotland – Rory McIlroy made Royal Aberdeen look friendly in Thursday‘s first round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, shooting a course-record 7-under 64 in a symbolic statement that he is ready for next week's Open Championship.

The McIlroy of old was on display Thursday as the Northern Irishman exhibited the shotmaking that he had displayed in winning two majors and rising to the top of the game.

But as easy as the first round looked, McIlroy has expressed disdain in the past for links golf, an issue with which he contends he has come to terms, if only for the next two weeks.

“I'm going to make it my favorite style for two weeks a year,” McIlroy said of the ground game necessary to mastering links golf. “I was sitting here talking yesterday just about relishing the challenge, and I don't care if it's going to get windy or rainy. We only really have to play it for two, three weeks a year, depending on what tournaments you play.“

McIlroy, 25, has struggled throughout his young professional career in following a spectacular round with solid play, costing him chances at more victories than he would care to acknowledge.

This season, McIlroy has posted some outstanding first rounds before fading from contention: 65 at the WGC-HSBC Champions, followed by a 72; 63 at the Honda Classic, then a slow fade with 66-69-74; first-round 71 at the Masters and tumbled from contention with a 77; 69 at the Wells Fargo Championship, then 76; and 63 at the Memorial Tournament before a second-round 78.

Even on the European Tour, McIlroy has struggled to maintain his Thursday momentum, going 63-70 at Dubai.

“I haven't really thought about doing much differently, to be honest,” McIlroy said of his approach on Fridays. “I think every time that I've played well or had success in a tournament, my mind hasn't been too much on the leaderboard or too much on my position in the tournament. Sometimes this year when I've gotten myself into the lead ... I've focused too much on where I am on the leaderboard or where I am in the tournament instead of just going out and trying to play another solid round of golf.”

McIlroy recounted the positives of his round: controlling his golf ball with a variety of shot shapes and distances in the 15-20-mph winds and bouncy conditions early Thursday, plus a 425-yard drive that reached the green at the 436-yard 13th hole.

“I think it just trickled up to them,” McIlroy said of his drive's catching the group on the green off guard. “They all said, 'Good shot' or 'Great drive' or whatever. (Ian) Poulter was trying to flex his muscle out there, but it was nice to see it go over the hill and see it on the green. I did my best to try and make a par but managed to make birdie.”

McIlroy, who leads Sweden's Kristoffer Broberg and Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez by one stroke, will tee off at 1:20 GMT in Friday’s second round with Thongchai Jaidee and Jamie Donaldson.