British Open: Mixed fortunes for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day at Troon

Rory McIlroy is finely poised at the British Open after a two-under-par first round of 69 kept him in touch with the leaders at Troon on Thursday.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches a putt during the first round on day one of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon on July 14, 2016 in Troon, Scotland. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
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Rory McIlroy is finely poised at the British Open after a two-under-par first round of 69 kept him in touch with the leaders at Troon on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman sits three shots adrift of clubhouse leader Patrick Reed of the United States after the kind of round that was familiar to most of the field going out in the morning.

There was glorious sunshine on the Ayrshire coast, but the breeze off the sea made life difficult on the back nine.

McIlroy had four birdies on the front nine, including one at the par-three eighth, known as the Postage Stamp.

But a double-bogey six at the 13th took away his momentum and a bogey at the short 14th followed before he recovered a shot at the next hole.

See also:

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• The British Open: The good, the bad and the damn right ugly

• Gallery: Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and other stars practice ahead of The Open

McIlroy, the 2014 Open champion, is in a better position than American prodigy Spieth, who had an unremarkable opening 71, a level-par round featuring three birdies and three bogeys.

The 2015 Masters and US Open champion looked set to end the day under par but dropped a stroke at the 18th.

“I probably hit it as well as anybody in the field and shot five, six shots over the leader, so that normally doesn’t happen for me,” Spieth said.

“That’s normally my really low round. So if I can keep my rhythm and my swing as we lead into these tougher condition days, the next couple days, I should be able to make up some strokes.”

With rain and wind forecast for Friday and Saturday, world No 1 Day also has ground to make up after a two-over-par 73 to start.

The Australian birdied the third and long sixth but had four bogeys, including at the Postage Stamp and at the last.

“I think if I’m patient and I just start hitting the correct shots and give myself the opportunities, I can get myself back in the tournament,” Day said.

Justin Rose feels he should have bettered Open start

Justin Rose felt he should have done even better after making a solid start at the Open Championship at Royal Troon.

The former US Open champion shot 68 to establish himself among the early front-runners on three under.

But unlike most of the field, the 35-year-old Englishman actually performed better on the trickier back nine than the outward holes and felt he missed some opportunities.

He said: “The first seven holes – for the whole week – that is going to be as easy as we have it.

“I was really conscious about it. I knew I couldn’t force it but I wanted to be very sharp going out.

“I actually did, I played really well, but just hit a couple putts that lipped out and birdied the par five. I felt like I should have birdied six.

“Suddenly I’m only one under through six, when I felt like I played great.

“I made up for a bit on the back nine. The score didn’t quite reflect how well I played but I’m certainly happy with the start.”

Rose reached the turn in one-under 35 and then gained two more birdies on a bogey-free back nine. He was pleased to perform well in good conditions with poorer weather forecast for Friday.

‘Louisville chip’ helps American Thomas to fly high

Justin Thomas, who shares the same birthplace as the late “Louisville Lip” Muhammad Ali, produced a special “Louisville chip” on the way to a four-under-par 67 in the British Open first round on Thursday.

The 23-year-old American made a cracking start to his debut in golf’s oldest major championship, roaring to four-under with birdies at each of the opening four holes.

Thomas then had to cling on to his score on the inward half at Royal Troon, by far the most difficult nine-hole stretch on the rugged Ayrshire links.

The American had “Lady Luck” on his side at the treacherous 482-yard par-four 11th, a hole that has already caused major grief with a string of big numbers including nines from 2001 Open champion David Duval and Australian Steven Bowditch.

The players face a daunting tee shot there, with a railway track and thick gorse to the right and more heavy rough on the left, and Thomas had to hole out from a greenside bunker to save par.

“The hard thing about it is a lot of those holes on the back nine are so hard but the thing about that one is it’s such a hard drive,” he said.

“If you do hit a good drive you have anywhere from maybe a four-iron to a three-wood in and the wind is in and off the left and you have the out of bounds to the right and bunker to the left.

“If I could play 10 and 11 in three or four-over combined for the week I’d probably take that right now. To make that four that’s when you say ‘there are no pictures on scorecards’.”

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