Rory McIlroy British Open Notebook: Amateur Rory McIlroy steals the show in first round

While Sergio Garcia surged to the lead and Tiger Woods got himself in the hunt, Rory McIlroy did his best to steal the show Thursday in first-round play of the British Open.

McIlroy, an 18-year-old amateur from Northern Ireland, shot a 3-under-par 68 at Carnoustie Golf Club to stand tied for third place, just three strokes behind Garcia. McIlroy was the lone player in the field of 156 to card a bogey-free round.

"It's been pretty good -- a pretty good opening day," McIlroy said. "I played really well out there. I was very nervous the first few holes, but when I birdied the fifth, I sort of got in my stride and I sort of got going there and played some really solid golf.

"I soaked up the atmosphere and really enjoyed it."

Coming into the Open, McIlroy said his only goals were to try and make the cut and win the silver medal awarded to the low amateur in the championship. In the opening round, the teenager bested playing partners Miguel Angel Jimenez and Henrik Stenson.

"I sort of come into these weeks just trying to learn as much as possible," McIlroy said. "Playing with Henrik and Miguel today was great. Miguel is a terrific player, and Henrik won a World Golf Championship this year and they're really good guys.

"I just tried to learn as much as I can from them."

Perhaps best of all, McIlroy was able to end the day above his idol on the leaderboard.

"It's pretty special feeling to say you shot one better than Tiger," McIlroy said.

Campbell regains desire

After winning the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Michael Campbell admits that he probably didn't take the approach that he should have.

"The mistake I made was to win [the one] major that was my ultimate goal," Campbell told reporters after firing a first-round 68 to finish tied for third at 3 under. "Once you do that in life, what's next?"

Campbell said he has spoken to a sports psychologist who compared winning a major to climbing Mount Everest. He told Campbell that reaching the summit was only part of the journey and that to survive, you have to return to base camp.

"That was quite interesting to hear that sort of thing," Campbell said. "That's one thing I tried to do over the last couple of months is go beyond the U.S. Open and win majors.

"I believe I've got the ability to do it. I've proven it to the world I've done it before, two years ago, and now I believe that I've a good chance to perform well this week."

Tiger Woods: Flexible plan of attack

Woods said that he has no idea what his strategy will be for the second round. That all depends, he said, on what the weather conditions are like on Friday at Carnoustie.

"After my three practice rounds here on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, they had three different winds," said Woods, who is tied for eighth after shooting a 2-under-par 69. "Today was slightly different than the other three days I played.
"You have to adjust to the winds and play numbers and where your ball needs to be."

Regardless of the elements, Woods said the course isn't playing nearly as difficult as it did for the 1999 Open. That year, the best score -- posted by eventual playoff winner Paul Lawrie, Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard -- was 6-over-par.

"The golf course is hard, but it's fair," Woods said in a press conference. "I think all the players who played in '99 can attest to that. I think it's a fantastic test."

McGinley in favor of drug testing

There was plenty of buzz at Carnoustie on the heels of golfing great Gary Player's comments made earlier this week that he knows for a fact that at least one professional golfer -- and possibly as many as 10 -- are using or have used performance-enhancing drugs.

Paul McGinley, who shot a first-round 67 to stand alone in second after the first round of the Open, said he was surprised to learn of Player's comments.

"I can honestly say, hand on heart, I don't know of anybody," McGinley said in his post-round press conference. "I've never heard anybody talk about it, so maybe he knows something I don't know."

As for drug testing, McGinley said he's all for it.

"I have nothing to hide," McGinley said. "I think most guys, nearly everybody that I know, have nothing to hide, so why not bring it in and get it done and have it there and reiterate how clean our sport is?"

A big sendoff for Seve?

With Spainard Seve Ballesteros announcing his retirement earlier this week before the Open championship, Sergio Garcia said he couldn't think of a better way to honor his fellow countryman than to continue on for a victory.

"It would be amazing," said Garcia, who shot a 6-under-par 65 to lead by two strokes after round one. "It would be something out of … a fairy tale or something like that, but it's just the beginning.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself. I need to keep playing like this, keep doing everything the same way and at least have a chance on that Sunday."

July 20, 2007

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