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9:34AM

Newsday (N.Y.): McIlroy leads, Woods in hunt at windless British Open

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- For a day, Mother Nature, that most fickle of ladies, was as gentle as the heather on the hills. After all, this is Scotland, where the witches in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" conspired in weather as nasty as their reputation, and the forecast for the first round of the 139th British Open was for wind and rain.

Instead, after a light morning drizzle Thursday, golfers shed their waterproofs, their sweaters and their inhibitions. Until early evening, the Old Course at St. Andrews was a charm, and the opening scores were virtually ridiculous.

"It will never get any easier," said Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy shot a 9-under par 63, equaling the lowest Open round ever shot on the game's most historic course, where the tournament is being played for a 28th time. And the "old" Tiger Woods even shot a 5-under 67.

In between were a 65 by Louis Oosthuizen, a South African whose name appears here and there, and 66s by John Daly, Andrew Coltart, Steven Tiley and Bradley Dredge. Among those at 67 was Lucas Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, and Lee Westwood, in search of his first major. Phil Mickelson shot a 73.

Linksland courses are defenseless without a brisk wind. For most of the long day - it doesn't get dark here until around 10:30 p.m. - there barely was a breeze. That meant there were a ton of birdies and in the case of the 21-year-old McIlroy, an eagle 2 when he drove the 352-yard par 4 ninth hole.

"You needed to take advantage of conditions," said McIlroy, who like Graeme McDowell, winner of last month's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, is from Northern Ireland. "It never is going to get any easier."

McIlroy equaled the lowest score ever in a major championship. His 33-30-63 (the eagle, seven birdies and no bogeys) was the 24th time the score was recorded in a major.

"Yeah," said McIlroy "it was a fantastic score."

He said McDowell's U.S. Open victory gave him a belief he could win a major, and then alluding to Padraig Harrington, from the Republic of Ireland, and McDowell, McIlroy quipped, "I wouldn't like to be the only Irishman at the Ryder Cup without a major."

McIlroy's hometown is Holywood, pronounced "Hollywood," But it's too early to be thinking of a cinematic story. "There are 54 holes to go," reminded Tiger.

Woods was pleased with his 67, if not satisfied, dropping a shot at the famed 17th, the Road Hole, and then failing to birdie the 357-yard 18th despite nearly reaching the green with his drive.

"It felt awkward, because there was absolutely no wind whatsoever," said Woods, "and you never play a links golf course with no wind. You knew with the conditions we had, you had to go get it."

Woods won the last two Opens at St. Andrews, in 2000 and 2005, and despite the struggles of his now-familiar marital infidelity and the departure of his swing coach, he looked like a golfer who could justify favoritism by the British bookies.

"It's getting better every week," said Woods of his game. "I'm hitting shots I haven't hit in a long time. It's building.

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http://www.newsday.com/sports/golf/mcilroy-leads-woods-in-hunt-at-windless-british-open-1.2108454
Copyright © 2010 Newsday. All rights reserved.
3:35AM

Scotland Sunday Herald: Woods aside, a triumph for Europeans

GOLF: Harrington and Co proving strength of our Tour with displays in Minnesota, writes Art Spander in Hazeltine

The weather turned yesterday, making Minnesota seem more like Britain, a bit cooler, a bit darker. But even in the blast furnace heat of the first two rounds the US PGA Championship was a fine place to be for the numerous representatives of the European Tour.

The fourth Major of the year, the 91st PGA, out on the prairie west of Minneapolis at Hazeltine, was in effect two tournaments, one being played by Tiger Woods and another involving everybody else.

In the Tiger Tournament, Woods was playing in his usual grand style -- usual if you forget the missed cut in The Open at Turnberry, that is. By the end of Friday's second round, he had built up a four-shot lead and as defending champion Padraig Harrington put it: "If Tiger plays the golf he's capable of this weekend, he'll be a winner.'' In the other competition, there already were a great many winners, players such as Harrington, the Irishman, Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter of England, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, Lee Westwood of England, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and even Scotland's Alastair Forsyth.

All made the cut along with Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, Thomas Levet of France and Francesco Molinari of Italy, an indication that even if the Euro Tour doesn't have anyone quite like Tiger -- and nor does any other tour on the globe - it still boasts a wealth of talent. Harrington, playing with Woods for the first two rounds, as he did last Sunday in that controversial final round of the WGC Bridgestone when the two were put on the clock and Harrington self-destructed, was tied with Woods for a time on Friday. Then Harrington made four bogeys on the back nine.

But even though he stumbled to a 35-38, he hit the shot of the day, and maybe of the tournament, a 301-yard 3-wood from a bunker onto the green of the par-five 642-yard 15th hole.

Harrington said: "Tiger told me he would have paid to have seen it. So I asked him for 50 bucks.'' Poulter was on two-under 142 after 36 holes and would have been closer to the top of the leaderboard but for a double bogey at the first, his 10th."It's been great,'' he said. "The crowds are fantastic out there. This is as busy a Major as I've seen all year, so it's good fun.'' Fun is a word one rarely hears associated with championship golf but this has indeed been an enjoyable tournament, due in no small part to those who have packed the enormous galleries here in an area which rarely sees the top pros.

Fisher, who briefly led the final round of The Open at Turnberry before taking that horrendous triple-bogey eight at the fifth, was tied with Tiger on Friday until bogeys at 17 and 18.

"In some ways I'm disappointed but overall I'm delighted,'' said Fisher. "I was hitting fairways, I was hitting greens but finishing bogey, bogey always leaves a little bit of sour taste. But you know, I'm still in there with a good shout.'' Fisher has made some tremendous progress - a run at The Open, a run at the PGA a month later.

"Every golfer wants to be at the Major championships,'' said the 28-year-old. "This is what we all dream of, right from when we were kids. I want to go out there and perform, not only for myself but at the same time to give the fans something to shout about.'' Fisher and Harrington were paired yesterday in an interesting twosome, the kid with potential alongside the only player not to back down where matched up against the Tiger. Harrington may have fallen apart last weekend, but that was the result on one errant shot into a pond, not being intimidated by Woods.

"It's irrelevant,'' Harrington responded when someone ask if he was unhappy that he wasn't playing a fourth straight round with Woods, who yesterday was with Vijay Singh two groups ahead.

"It's not bad to have a day off. Hopefully I'll see him again on Sunday," Harrington added.

McIlroy, widely expected to be the next great thing, was on level-par 144 after 36 holes and picked up a shot through the first seven yesterday.

"If I can iron it all out,'' said the 19-year-old, "I can get myself back where I was in the middle of the second round. I'm definitely a lot happier about my game than I was on Monday or Tuesday, so there are a few positives to take from it all.'' There are more than a few positives to take from the way the European Tour members have played this week in America. The only negative is they continue to chase that guy Tiger Woods. Then again, so does everyone from every corner of the world.

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http://www.sundayherald.com/sport/nationalsport/display.var.2525728.0.woods_aside_a_triumph_for_europeans.php

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