Rory McIlroy’s nightmare start and everything you missed while you were sleeping on Thursday

July 18, 2019

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — The 148th Open Championship is off, with a bang and a whimper, depending who you ask. Here’s everything you missed while you were sleeping Thursday morning.

THE FAVORITE’S NIGHTMARE START

Rory McIlroy got an explosive ovation on the 1st tee, then promptly sniped his long iron left and very much out of bounds, reportedly striking a female fan and cracking her cell phone in the process, according to a Daily Mirror reporter.

He found the rough with his second tee shot, too, and then found some deeper rough, and then took an unplayable lie, and then missed a putt, and it all added up to a double-par, a quadruple-bogey, a snowman, a nightmarish 8 on No. 1. Not what anyone had in mind for McIlroy.

THE LEADERS

Webb Simpson seized the early lead at five under, while Shane Lowry, Alex Noren, and Sergio Garcia shared were in a pack of players close behind. Simpson eventually finished at three under, one shot behind early clubhouse leader Shane Lowry (four under). Birdies abound, with eight holes playing even par or lower. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll get those good scores in the house — 17 and 18 are playing into the wind, and hard as heck.

THE HOMETOWNER

Graeme McDowell is the only golfer in the field from Portrush. His image adorns many of the local shops. His name — pronounced “Mc-Dool” by the locals — brings a smile to nearly every local we’ve run into (with one exception: a woman at an Indian restaurant last night said his accent was “too American” and had sworn him off).

McDowell got a hero’s welcome at the first tee. And then he got down to playing plenty of good golf. Birdie at No. 2. Birdie again at No. 7. Good times for G-Mac.

THE WEATHER

After wind and rain roared Wednesday afternoon, Thursday dawned calm, cool and dry. That meant plenty of early birdies, beginning with local favorite Darren Clarke, who began with a birdie and stayed atop the leaderboard for much of his opening round before bogeys at 16 and 17 left him at even-par 71.

The weather looks relatively calm for the rest of the day, too, with a lingering chance of showers. Winds were in the range of 10 mph, but gusted closer to 20 as the morning wore on towards midday.

Among those grateful were the flock of fans who cruised through the entrance gates this morning. But judging from how many stuck around on an apocalyptic Wednesday, they may not have cared anyway.

THE ACE

Emiliano Grillo had the early highlight (and cashed out plenty of prop bets!) with an ace at the 200-yard 13th.

THE (OTHER) FAVORITES

How’s Tiger Woods doing? Dustin Johnson? Brooks Koepka? All still even par. The afternoon wave on Thursday at the Open is chock-full with stars, including Woods at 3:10 local time (10:10 a.m. ET). You can check out tee times here, and stay tuned to GOLF.com for complete coverage of all things Open Championship.

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