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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Phil Casey

The Open: Tommy Fleetwood shares first-round lead as Rory McIlroy battles to stay in touch at Hoylake

Tommy Fleetwood rode a wave of home support to the top of the leaderboard as Rory McIlroy battled back from a poor start in the 151st Open Championship.

Roared on by a partisan crowd at Royal Liverpool, Fleetwood carded an opening 66 to share the clubhouse lead with South African amateur Christo Lamprecht and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo on five under par.

Antoine Rozner, Adrian Otaegui and Brian Harman were all a shot behind, with former champion Stewart Cink - who denied Tom Watson a fairytale victory in 2009 - part of a group on three under which included US Open champion Wyndham Clark.

McIlroy, who lifted the Claret Jug at Hoylake in 2014, was two over par after 13 holes before making birdies on the 14th and 15th and a crucial par on the 18th after needing two shots to escape a greenside bunker.

It is unlikely that McIlroy was aware of the statistic that 50 of the last 52 Open champions have been within five shots of the lead after round one, but a fist pump suggested he certainly felt it was an important finish.

“It was a really good par in the end,” McIlroy said. “I got lucky because that ball could have gone into a deeper part of my footprints and I could have been there all night.

“I could have let that round get away from me but I didn’t with the two birdies on the back nine. I need to shoot something in the 60s tomorrow and I will be right there for the weekend.”

Fleetwood revelled in the support of the large galleries in what will be an emotional week, with Friday marking the first anniversary of the death of his mother Sue.

“It really was a great day,” the 32-year-old from Southport said after a round containing six birdies and a solitary bogey.

“To get that support all day was amazing. If you’re not going to enjoy this atmosphere and these experiences then what’s the point? Make sure you have the time of your life out there.

“Being this close to home is the coolest thing and I’m so grateful to everyone that cheers me on. I am one of them, one of the guys that’s out there. I’m a fan of the game. I’m from this area. To feel that support, it means a lot.

“Of course throughout the day, you can easily put too much pressure on yourself. You can easily try too hard. But just having that support and people egging you on just pushes you on.”

Scheffler had another frustrating day on the greens but remains firmly in touch (AP)

World number one Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay and Viktor Hovland all shots rounds of 70 to leave themselves four back of the lead, with defending champion Cameron Smith and Shane Lowry among the group on one-over par after 18 holes.

Jon Rahm, playing alongside McIlroy and Justin Rose, has plenty of work to do to get himself back in contention, sitting eight shots back of the lead, while it was an more painful day for Justin Thomas. The American was a major winner at the PGA Championship last year, but has fallen woefully out of form and carded an 82, after taking nine shots on the 18th hole.

It was a far more enjoyable experience for Royal Liverpool member Matthew Jordan, as struck the opening tee shot of the Open at 6.35am and enjoyed massive support as he carded an opening 69.

“Amazing. I’m kind of running out of words to describe it,” Jordan said of the reception he received. “It was crazy, mental, loud - everything that I could have wished for.

“I’m certainly trying to think of a better experience than that, and I don’t think I can.”

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