The Rory McIlroy story line was inescapable heading into this year’s British Open, which got started Thursday morning at Royal Portrush. It’s the first time McIlroy’s Northern Ireland homeland has hosted the tournament since 1951, the perfect place for the world’s No. 3-ranked golfer — and pretournament favorite — to snap his five-year majors drought. The fact that McIlroy once shot a 61 on the course as a 16-year-old only added to the buzz.
So all eyes were on McIlroy as he stepped to the first tee on Thursday, and those eyes watched him make a complete hash of his first tee shot.
McIlroy’s monster pull landed out of bounds — hitting a female fan in the stomach and breaking her cellphone — and his retaken tee shot went left, too. Playing his fourth shot from a brutal lie, he sent it into even worse rough left of the green, an unplayable lie that forced him to take a drop. By the time McIlroy’s first-hole nightmare had ended, he had recorded a quadruple-bogey eight.
Things did not immediately improve. McIlroy missed a six-footer for birdie at the second hole and then sent his tee shot at the par-3 third hole into the rough and carded a bogey. Even on the holes he parred, such as the par-4 fifth hole, McIlroy was making it hard on himself.
Through six holes, McIlroy already had dug himself into a 5-over-par hole, needing 28 strokes to get through the first third of the course. I’m no math wizard, but something tells me he won’t be shooting a 61.
But McIlroy’s struggles pale in comparison to David Duval’s, who carded a 13 at the par-5 seventh hole, a misadventure that included a two-stroke penalty for playing the wrong ball. After opening with two birdies, Duval played holes 5-7 at 13 over par (his octuple at 7 was preceded by a quad at 5 and a regular bogey at 6).