Golf: McIlroy settles for 'solid start' at Troon

McIlroy watches his shot from the 6th tee during his first round on the opening day of the 2016 British Open.
McIlroy watches his shot from the 6th tee during his first round on the opening day of the 2016 British Open.PHOTO: AFP

TROON, United Kingdom (AFP) - Rory McIlroy sits in a good position after his opening round at the British Open, a two-under-par 69 in largely benign conditions in Troon keeping him in touch with the early leaders.

The Ulsterman was one of numerous players who enjoyed an excellent start on the front nine on Thursday morning, with four birdies taking him to the turn in 32.

On a day of glorious sunshine in south-west Scotland, the inward nine into the breeze blowing from the Firth of Clyde made the closing holes more challenging.

McIlroy duly notched a double-bogey six at the 13th and dropped another stroke at the short 14th but birdied 15 to make it a satisfactory return to the Open.

"It was good. I think if I would've stepped on the first tee and someone would have given me a 69, I probably would have taken it," McIlroy said after his round.

"But if somebody had given me that score on the 10th, I probably wouldn't have. But I knew today was a day where you had to make the most of the conditions because I don't think we're going to see the course like this for the rest of the week.

"I think the elements are going to be a bit of a challenge. But two under par, shoot something in the 60s, it's a solid start."

The four-time major winner was pleased to be able to focus on his bid for the Claret Jug after a build-up to the tournament dominated by his and numerous other stars' decision to withdraw from the Olympics.

He was also relieved to return to the championship after an ankle injury prevented him from defending the Claret Jug he won in 2014 when last year's Open was held at St Andrews.

"I missed the Open Championship last year, obviously. And I kept saying St Andrews was a venue I felt like I could do very well at, so it was tough to miss.

"But I felt like I figured out how to play Open Championships a little bit more over the last few years, and I feel like I'm more equipped to handle the elements a little bit better. It's a good start."

The 27-year-old's round included a welcome birdie at the iconic short eighth, the Postage Stamp. His two there came after he endured a nightmare time at the same hole during practice on Tuesday.

"It's great. I think the best par-threes in the world are all under 150 yards," he said.

"No matter if it took me six shots to get out of the bunker the other day and I made nine, it's a great golf hole. I think there should definitely be more holes like that in golf."

After going out in the morning on Thursday, McIlroy must wait until 2.37pm local time on Friday to begin his second round.

And he, like everyone else at Troon, is bracing himself for completely different weather conditions, with Friday's forecast for rain and stiff winds.

"Yeah, it doesn't look very good tomorrow morning. I'm hoping some of the weather forecasts I've seen are right and it's starting to clear up a little in the afternoon," McIlroy remarked with his fingers crossed.

"But it's the Open Championship, and you know coming in here you're going to have to battle the elements somewhat.

"I think you're looking at something at around eight or 10 under par that might win this tournament, and I felt like I got off to a good start in trying to achieve that."