Portrush, 18 July 2019: There was an air of anticipation this morning as eager fans thronged in early to the galleries on the Dunluce Links. Northern Ireland hadn’t enjoyed an event of this magnitude for as long as anyone can remember and local hero Darren Clarke was scheduled to open the action at 0635am. It wasn’t as if they needed any incentive in any case.
Three birdies in the first five holes set Clarke out on a rousing start, but he would fall back and close with an even 71. Webb Simpson made six straight pars before taking five stokes off the course in the next seven holes. But bogeys at 17 & 18 meant that Simpson ended the day with a 68, one short of Shane Lowry.
Barring a bogey at the eleventh, Shane Lowry was the steadiest of stewards during the early tide of golf at the 148th Open Championship. He finished with a 67 to take the early lead. The weather turned decidedly wet soon after the morning groups came home, leaving the afternoon section of the draw to deal with a wet ball and dirty clubs.
The morning weather was amenable to plenty of romance, but there wasn’t much on offer for Rory McIlroy. The embattled four-time champion suffered soon as he stepped out, flying out of bounds with his tee shot at the first hole. He hit a provisional, flew into the rough, behind the green, took an unplayable and walked away with a miserable quadruple bogey. It was painful even just to watch.
There was no hint of pain on the face of Emiliano Grillo. He was jubilant soon as his tee shot caught the ridge on the left of the green and rolled nicely into the cup for a hole-in-one at the 200 yard, par-3 13th hole.
There were also eagles on the card for Ryan Palmer, Robert Macintyre – at the fifth and Luke List and Kevin Kisner – at the second during eventful first session at the Open.
Shubhankar Sharma will tee off just after 0100pm local time in the company of Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen.
Shane Lowry 67
Robert Macintyre, Alex Noren, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Dylan Frittelli 68
Romain Langasque 69
Charley Hoffman, Andrew Putnam, Eddie Pepperell, Branden Grace 70