Cameron Young leads the field after a breakneck debut in the first round of the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland, on Thursday.
The American returned a flawless scorecard by setting the clubhouse target at eight under with a bogey-free 64, two shots ahead of 2014 champion Rory McIlroy.
With both golfers playing on the Old Course before 10am local time, the pair made the most of the light morning winds to race to the front of the 156-player field.
Young, a two-time winner of the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour’s developmental series, is making his third major debut this year after his first appearances at the Masters and PGA Championship. Although he missed the cut in the first, the 25-year-old starred in Tulsa in May, finishing one shot behind winner and countryman Justin Thomas.
Having played the Old Course on a visit with his family when he was 13, St Andrews holds a “special” place in Young’s heart.
You just can’t hide how special a place is,” he told reporters.
“It has certainly been a goal to reach an Open Championship. And that the first one is here is a little more special for me”.
However, with tee times reversed and Young potentially facing tougher conditions on Friday afternoon, the American quickly moved from sentimentality to focus ahead of the second round.
“Things can change in an instant, especially here given the importance of rebounding and the mindset that you have,” he added.
“I could be in trouble tomorrow. Who knows? I could shoot 64 again. But I think it’s important for me to take tomorrow as it comes and do what I can.”
McIlroy’s eventful round went beyond his impressive scoring, with the Northern Irishman hitting an ancient stone and a spectator along the way to score a six-under 66.
An odd start on the fifth hole saw the Northern Irishman’s tee shot bounce off a march stone, one of several ancient stones around the fairways marking the boundaries of the original course, before rebounding with a birdie. Later, one of his stray drives broke the hand of a PGA Tour employee, who returned to the course in a sling.
Except for a “too cute” second shot that led to his only bogey of the round in the 13th, the four-time Grand Slam winner was content with a good day’s work.
“It all feels very settled,” McIlroy told reporters. “There are no real problems with my game. Everything feels like it’s in good shape…nice and quiet, which is a good way to be.
“I’m pretty good at this game, I think I know what I’m doing. I just needed to take possession of it again,” she added.
Cameron Smith trails the Northern Irishman by one stroke, while English amateur Barclay Brown provides the names pick among the series of golfers tied for fourth at four under par.
Arriving at St Andrews via a final qualifying tournament in June, the 21-year-old quickly became a crowd favorite in the stands as three birdies on the last seven holes capped a hugely impressive opening round. .
“I was incredibly nervous at first,” he admitted to reporters.
“Then once I got through the first few holes, it was good to calm down a little bit and hit some good shots and get in.”
Meanwhile, fellow Englishman Matt Ford, who told CNN about his decades-long effort to qualify for the tournament, impressed in his first major appearance, going one under 71.
Brown wasn’t even born when Tiger Woods won the first of his three Open Championships at St Andrews in 2000, and it seems unlikely the youngster will see the American add a fourth in person after Woods endured a tough first round.
Shooting 6 out of 78 that left him tied for 146th on his return to the clubhouse, the 15-time major winner was relentlessly cheered by fans at St Andrews and received a rousing reception on the final tee.
Crowds flocked to follow his round and roared at each of his three birdies as if he was once again competing at the top of the leaderboard, but, as Woods acknowledged Wednesday, this is his “tough” new reality.
Although he claimed to feel “much stronger” physically, the 46-year-old had been candid about accepting his body’s new limits following serious leg injuries he sustained in a car accident last year.
After teeing off at 2:59 p.m. local time, Woods and his two playing partners, countryman Max Homa and newly crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, didn’t finish their round until just over six hours later. However, Woods told reporters after his round that his day had been “much easier” on his body than his two previous major events, which included a retirement from the PGA Championship. .
“I didn’t really feel like I hit it that bad, but I ended up in bad places or just some weird stuff happened,” he said.
“Links is like that, and this golf course is like that. I had a chance to turn it around and get it going the right way and I didn’t.”
On the support from St. Andrews, Woods added: “They were fantastic, absolutely fantastic. So supportive.”
By his recent high standards, Fitzpatrick also endured a tough night, bogeying three times to even finish for opening day. However, like Woods, the Briton was passionately supported throughout, and a birdie on the 18th to score a par 72 ensured a crowd-pleasing finish.
The first group of Friday’s second round is scheduled to kick off at 6:35am BST (1am ET), with leader Young set to start at 1:26pm BST (8:26am ET).