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McIlroy and Daly dazzle at St Andrews

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Rob Hodgetts | 19:01 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

To light up St Andrews on Thursday you had to be one of golf's brightest stars or wearing a pair of psychedelic strides.

Rory McIlroy is certainly the former, and while there is more to John Daly than snazzy pants, the 1995 Open champion certainly dazzled on the Old Course.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy was head and shoulders above the rest as he laid down a serious challenge for a maiden major title on an iconic course he relishes.

The 21-year-old is desperate not to be the only Irishman on Europe's 2010 Ryder Cup team without a major title - he is expected to line up alongside recently-crowned US Open champion Graeme McDowell and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.

And he is going the right way about avoiding that particular stigma on a course where he has never scored worse than 69 in eight rounds of golf.

McIlroy, who shot 61 as a 16-year-old at his home club Royal Portrush in 2005, has been marked out for greatness for years.

macca595.jpgAt times McIlroy looked like he owned the Old Course during a stellar round of 63

As the world's number one amateur he sprang to public notice with a strong showing in the 2007 Open at Carnoustie before turning professional.

He was the youngest player to climb into the world's top 50 golfers when he achieved the feat at the end of 2008 and he won his first, though so far only, European Tour event at the age of 19 in Dubai in 2009.

That week he was described as having a better swing than Tiger Woods at the same age by none other than the world number one's mentor Mark O'Meara.

McIlroy also clinched his maiden crown in the United States earlier this year when he shot 62 in the final round at Quail Hollow to become the youngest winner of a PGA Tour event since Woods in 1996.

Crashing out of the recent US Open at halfway after rounds of 75 and 77, he was gently chastised by his close friend McDowell for being still too raw to contend in major golf, despite having finished 10th in the event in 2009 and third in the US PGA two months later.

"Rory plays gung-ho golf. He doesn't put a lot of thought into what he does," said McDowell, the tournament leader at the time and eventual winner.

"He's a young kid, he grips it and rips it. But I would imagine he has not put a lot of thought into this course as regards a game plan."

McIlroy also missed the cut at the Masters in April after finishing 10th on his debut in 2009, and he slunk back to Holywood to lick his wounds, play with his friends and rediscover the fun side of golf.

His victory at Quail Hollow suggests it worked, and he has adopted the same method before the Open - after warming up at home last week, playing at Portrush and Royal County Down, McIlroy employed his carefree attacking game on a benign first morning at St Andrews.

"The course was there for the taking," said McIlroy. He did, though, admit he has never played the Old Course in bad weather and he is likely to encounter his share at some stage this week. Whether McDowell's assessment is still true, only time will tell.

Daly, known for his colourful background as well as his now familiar outrageous legwear, was also granted a chance to rekindle former glories by the kind Old Lady of St Andrews.

The 44-year-old American was wearing the "good luck pants" - a lilac paisley creation - that he has worn to good effect in recent weeks.

"The good thing about all of these pants is you get dressed in the dark, any shirt is going to match," he said.

Daly was one of a number of players to shoot 66, while South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen went one better, but the American has certainly taken the most turbulent route in his life to get there.

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Favourite trousers help confident Daly

Daly, known as 'Wild Thing' in his heyday, has battled weight problems, marital woes, gambling and alcohol addictions and serious financial worries but remains one of the game's most endearing characters.

"I have never run from my mistakes," he stated. "I've screwed up an awful lot, not just on tour but in other aspects of life. It's how you come back and deal with it."

The big hitter, who often sells his own branded merchandise out of his motorhome at events to make money, is often capable of low scoring and will sometimes feature for a round or two before blowing up.

But he has admitted he finds St Andrews, where he won the second of his two major titles 15 years ago, a soothing and inspirational place.

"It's my favourite course all over the world. There's just something so peaceful about it," Daly said, suggesting he should now be known as 'Mild Thing'.

Daly's weight ballooned to almost 20 stone last year, persuading him to have a gastric band fitted. His former tag-line "grip it and rip it" was tweaked to "grip it and sip it". He's now down to about 14 stone and enjoying his new lease of life.

"I'm not drinking, I just can't eat as much of the bad stuff as I used to," he added. "The thing I miss most about having the band put in is I can't drink vitamin D milk. I used to drink half a gallon of that a day. When you used to be as hungover as I was it was great, got rid of everything."

Daly has also suffered from a rib injury in recent years and became disillusioned, announcing earlier this season he was quitting the game.

But he quickly retracted the comments and said after his round on Thursday: "There's not too many players that haven't said it, I was just the idiot that said it on TV. But I love the game too much."

Daly and McIlroy are clearly in love with the Old Course. Whether she will love them back on Friday is another matter.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    See the old lady is defenceless without a bit of weather.......and the draw/weather may be unkind for some tomorrow too.

    Hope Rory builds on his fantastic day today - even if that is not losing ground as the weather turns. Really enjoyed watching his round today.

  • Comment number 2.

    Stato Attack.....

    Only two players in the last 15 years have won The Open leading after the first round...those players John Daly 1995 and Tiger Woods 2005 both at St Andrews!

    Stato points to Rory to get the job done this weekend! Was a fantastic round today and tomorrow afternoon seems where the scores will be low......

  • Comment number 3.

    Enjoyed the article, but, without wishing to be pedantic, it should be pointed out that Holywood Golf Club is Rory McIlroy's home course not Royal Portrush.....

  • Comment number 4.

    It would be great to see Daly & McIlroy fighting it out together down the final strait on Sunday. Diametrically opposite characters, they are both enthralling in their own way.

    Daly might announce it 20 times but I hope for all our sakes he never quits the game.

    McIlroy, in 30 years time, will be able to look back on the most successful career of any living golfer. Just call me the Oracle.

    Great start from both of them; I will be following their respective progress.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ no 2, that stat is incredible. But this is when it goes out the window, Tiger to get his major number 15!!

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Rory's home club is actually Holywood GC, just outside Belfast. Graeme McDowell's home club is Rathmore, and home course is Royal Portrush.

  • Comment number 8.

    Dear BBC,
    Please, I implore you now, stop it at once!
    The Open is a British event and we enjoy our British (BBC) coverage, not the American way. With that in mind, please stop having some Richard Clayderman type piano player gushing out some annoying incidental music in the background when your commentators are running through the leaderboard (aka The Masters). It is so irritating. Please stop it now!

  • Comment number 9.

    Morning all,

    Wet start here today, big wind forecast for later. The Old Lady could be about to snap. Thanks Irishgolfnews and PaulL74, point taken. And Seanstar - great stat. I'm with Fed_Borg though.

    Have fun today, chat later.

  • Comment number 10.

    Rory is from Co Down which makes him British not 'Irish'

    Why does the BBC do everything it can to avoid calling anyone British. It was the same when Graeme McDowell won the US Open. He was consistently referred to as "European".

  • Comment number 11.

    Saw Rory yesterday - absolutely breathtaking.

    This young man has a massive future in front of him and by all accounts could be a better player than Tiger and amass a huge number of Major wins.

    Looking forward to today despite the wind and rain.

  • Comment number 12.

    in response to comment number 10 - I am sick of this rubbish every time an Irish athlete is successful - English/British people trying to claim them for themselves! Aside from the political aspect (which is not appropriate for this blog) is it not enough that the 2 players have played for Ireland through the ranks and consider themselves Irish? Or do you somehow have a divine right to change people's nationality?? This blog is about golf so get a life!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Rory is from Co Down which makes him British not 'Irish'

    Why does the BBC do everything it can to avoid calling anyone British.
    --------------
    He calls himself Irish.

  • Comment number 14.

    Please let's not turn this into another British/Irish debate. It's very difficult to please everyone. Back to the golf.

  • Comment number 15.

    I hate to drag this topic out, but i am an Irishman from the North of Ireland and consider myself Irish first and British a close second.
    I think the point we have to focus on is support, I support any British/Irish/Scottish/Welsh sporting achievement, COME ON RORY!

  • Comment number 16.

    sorry about bringing this back to the golf, but I hope Andrew Coltart can have another good round. Been in the wilderness for a while, ex Ryder Cup player, and Scottish. Top 10 for him would be great achievement.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yeh Coltarts best finsih in open was 1999 T18th. he seems to be striking well and playing with a bit more confidence.
    As the tournament goes on I just have this feeling that one of the Englishman could win it. Casey and westwood are in with a good shout. its only a matter of time before Westwood wins a major. top class golfer.

  • Comment number 18.

    Calling people from NI, is a political comment. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom which makes me and all others from Northern Ireland British not 'Irish' I find it offensive to be called anything else.

  • Comment number 19.

    if you look at the top of this page it says golf, not politics, not national identity, just golf.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Not to be pedantic but it actually says 'McIlroy and Daly Dazzle at St Andrews'

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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