How a pep talk helped Rory McIlroy overcome disastrous front nine

How a pep talk helped Rory McIlroy overcome disastrous front nine

"I think that now we are on the better side of the draw, compared to this morning, " said Day. Dunne had managed to produce a bogey-free third round.

"I made some key up-and-downs on the start of the back nine - they're the putts that haven't quite been going in over the past few weeks and that's all it takes to keep a round going. Come on, Poults!' I mean, that's nice". Poor Mark O'Meara, the 1998 champion, flared his first tee-ball out of bounds and took an eight at the very first hole; the opening group on the course took 18 shots to complete the first hole.

"This course has a lot of crosswinds, so it's tough to judge how far the ball is going to fly depending on what shot you play". His game was off from the 1st onwards, where he skittered a chip off the green, clunked it back up to the fringe and then made a 15ft putt for his bogey, the first, if not the worst, of five in six holes. He admitted he was pleased with his putting speed on the greens, which are playing differently to what he is used to on the PGA Tour.

Five-times major tournament victor Phil Mickelson missed the cut after a triple bogey on the par-four third made life hard for the left-hander who shot 77. But with three strokes separating Kuchar from the trio of players tied for third, the potential for a head-to-head match a là a year ago at Troon between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson is real.

"They definitely help you along the way because it's not easy out there right now".

The 65s of Ryder Cup team-mates Spieth and Koepka equalled the second lowest first round score in an Open at Birkdale, a shot outside Craig Stadler's record of 64 set in 1983. The rain is forecasted to stop for a while in the afternoon but before we view that as a possible window of opportunity for Spieth, Koepka and all the other afternoon starters, the wind is due to increase. First-time winners have been fun to cheer over the last two years, but it's great to see the big names up top heading into the weekend.

McIlroy has a lot more ground to make up, five strokes behind Spieth for the championship and just one better on the day, but given his recent performances and the streak of missed cuts, even getting to the weekend would have been worth commending.

Matt Kuchar (-4) - Even though he's not often among the first mentioned when discussing best players without a major win, he certainly fits the mold.

He bogeyed Nos. 3-5 - his par putt at the fourth hole lipped out from four feet - and said he was thinking: "Geez, here we go again". And you want to go out there and shoot a good score and get off to a good start.

Entering the tournament still as an amateur, 17-year-old Justin Rose holds fond memories of his Open debut. Mark OMeara, a victor at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot. "I feel like it's all coming together".

"But I'm in good spirits", McIlroy said.

Each shot a five-under-par 65 to forge a three-way tie at Royal Birkdale, where the churning sky produced a light rain in the morning and postcard-worthy sunshine in the afternoon. "You're going to laugh when I tell you", he said.



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