As a final test before the Open Championship, more and more top players are looking to the Scottish Open to get their games in links-ready form. It worked for Phil Mickelson in 2013, and if Thursday’s opening round was any indication, then Rory McIlroy appears more than prepared heading into the year’s third major.
McIlroy had every aspect of his game on point at the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, working through blustery conditions to fire a course-record seven-under-par 64 to lead by one after 18 holes. The Ulsterman’s day was highlighted by an absolutely monstrous drive on the 436-yard, par-four 13th. McIlroy used a generous tailwind in addition to his usually powerful stroke to reach the green, much to the surprise of a group still putting out that included Ian Poulter.
“I told Poulter it was a three-wood, but it was a driver,” McIlroy later joked. “He was on the green trying to flex his muscles.”
It’s certainly easier to kid around when every bounce seems to go your way, but this was also a good sign of just how focused the former world No. 1 is on Royal Liverpool and the Open in a week’s time. The control McIlroy displayed in keeping his ball down and out of the wind, allowing drives to roll out for what felt like days will be a major key to success at Hoylake.
Now McIlroy must concentrate on following up this hot start – the fourth time he’s shot such a low round to open a tournament this year – and ensuring that he doesn’t make the simple mistakes that can allow his close competitors the chance to catch up. When he’s got that going, he’s almost impossible to top, and we should see more of that in the days and weeks to come.