Rory McIlroy pleased with encouraging opening round at The Open Championship

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy at the end of his round
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy at the end of his round

Rory McIlroy started the Open Championship with an encouraging two-under-par 69 in Thursday’s first round at Royal Troon.

The 2014 champion surged to four under on the front nine before dropping two shots on the back nine – he finished the day three behind clubhouse leader Patrick Reed.

“It was good, a solid start – I was able to make a run of birdies on the front nine,” said McIlroy.

The Holywood golfer picked up shots at four, six, seven and eight to move into a tie for the lead.

The world number four – who missed last year’s tournament because of an ankle injury – slipped back on the tougher back nine.

A double-bogey at the 13th was followed by another dropped shot at the next hole but McIlroy recovered with a birdie at 15.

“You really needed to make hay on the front nine and after a slow start I was able to do that,” added the four-time major winner.

“The double-bogey was disappointing and that affected by tee shot at the next but I was able to bounce back at the 15th.”

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington carded a 71, one better than Darren Clarke while Shane Lowry struggled to a 78.

Paul Dunne also had a disappointing start on the Scottish links with a 77 while Portrush player Graeme McDowell is among the afternoon starters.