McIlroy lights up The Open

By Brian Keogh

Red-hot Rory McIlroy said "Hello World" as he lit up the Open and outgunned Tiger Woods.

The Holywood idol, 18, posted the only bogey-free round of the day as he scooted round in three-under par 68 at savage Carnoustie.

The plus six handicap amateur could easily be leading the tournament after a brilliant performance that saw him outscore world No 1 Woods by a shot.

But he also beat playing partners Henrik Stenson and Miguel Angel Jimenez and finished just three shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.

Tied for third with the likes of US Open champions Angel Cabrera and Michael Campbell, McIlroy spoke to the world's press like a veteran after an amazing debut.

McIlroy beamed: "It's been a pretty good opening day. I played really well out there. I was very nervous the first few holes but when I birdied the fifth, I got in my stride and played some really solid golf.

"I probably should have birdied the seventh, as well. But overall this was a really good day. I soaked up the atmosphere and really enjoyed it."

Roared onto the 18th by hundreds of supporters from Northern Ireland and members of Holywood Golf Club, he is the biggest teenage sensation to hit the Open since Justin Rose tied for fourth as a 17 year old amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998.

Recalling that moment, he said: "It was just like a chill down the back of my spine with the ovation I got on the 18th. It's fantastic.

"Holywood Golf Club are just so supportive of me. It's great to see so many people over. I think with their support it's really helped me, not just today but throughout the year to get me where I am now.

"Justin's performance at Birkdale was phenomenal. And I think if he can do it at that age, I'm sure I can, as well. And that's probably going to be my mindset for the next few days.

"If I can hole a few putts, hopefully I can be in Justin Rose's position in only nine years."

When Woods turned professional at the Greater Milwaukee Open in August 1996, his first words at the obligatory news conference were a prophetic: "Hello World."

Now McIlroy has joined that league and given his performance yesterday, he can aim even higher than the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur who makes the cut.

The Medal looks as good as his as he finished the day six shots ahead of England's Paul Waring and nine ahead of US Amatuer champion Richie Ramsay and British Amateur winner Drew Weaver.

And even big-hitting World No 7 Stenson was impressed by a youngster who out-drove him on several occasions.

The Swede said: "He has it all and I think we will hear a whole lot about him in the future. He is a fantastic player. He is fearless and a great ball-striker. He also has a great short game and is a great putter.

"He has what it takes to do well out there. He shot three under and still made a couple of mistakes. He three putted the par five sixth from short range and we both missed a couple of short birdie putts on 15."

While Darren Clarke primed McIlroy before his round, pointing out the dangerous pins and the places to be aggressive, veteran Jimenez also played his role in McIlroy's dream debut.

The Spaniard calmed down the Ulster ace on the 16th tee after he had just missed a three foot birdie putt on the previous green to go four under par.

The Mechanic said: "He is a great kid. He's been playing since he was a so very small and you can see that he is keen to get out there. He's so young and fresh. It is the freshness of youth."

McIlroy confessed that he was nervous on the first tee - but it hardly showed.

As mentor Nick Faldo finished out simultaneously on the 18th green, it was almost like a changing of the guard as McIlroy ripped a long-iron down the left-hand semi-rough.

Yet McIlroy admitted: "I was very nervous on the first tee and for the first couple of holes. I was very nervous and then I sort of settled into my rhythm, got into my stride.

"I didn't hit a fairway until the fifth. But after that it was just really good golf."

The fireworks also started at the fifth, where he hit a four-iron to 15 feet and bottled the putt.

But he was unlucky only to par the 578-yard sixth, where knocked a 20-foot eagle putt four feet past the hole and missed the return.

Pars at the next four holes sent him to the turn in one under par 35 before he birdied the 10th with another majestic four-iron to 15 feet.

A seven-iron to three feet at the par-three 13th put him three under par and tied for second at that stage.

But he could easily have gone to five under par with a bit more precision on the greens.

At the par five 14th he outdrove Stenson and Jimenez but missed from five feet for birdie after a fine chip.

But he was more frustrated to miss a three-foot chance at the next, leaving himself four feet coming back for par.

Cheered on by his fans on every hole, his shot of the day came at the last, where he blasted a 230-yard two-iron to 18 feet and just missed the putt.

And that moment will live in his memory bank for years to come on a day when even some of he scoreboards were manned by friends on their school holidays.

McIlroy left school two years ago and now looks to the pros for his golfing education.

He said: "I just wanted to come here, try to make the cut and win the silver medal. But I come into these weeks just trying to learn as much as possible. Playing with Henrik and Miguel today was great.

"Miguel is a terrific player, and Henrik won a World Golf Championship this year, and they're really good guys. They're both really good guys. I just tried to learn as much as I can from them.

"Miguel is just such a good shotmaker. He just sort of like he plays away from the trouble, but he can shape his shots so that when he he's never really getting into big trouble. And he knows when to play for pins and not when to play for pins.

"Henrik hits it long off the tee and hits it sky high. It's really that's the sort of course Carnoustie is, as well; you have to think your way around and plot your way around.