PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — There was some serious first-round oddness, and needless to say Rory McIlroy’s Thursday 79, by way of an 8 on the 1st, and David Duval’s 91, 14 of those shots coming on the 7th, has got to be on the first page of your this-is-weird leaderboard. But check this out, people: Imagine you were playing in the AT&T pro-am, and you shot your everyday 91 and your pro, unable to activate his glutes, went for 79. You could imagine a gross better-ball of, say, 75.
McIlroy and Duval, two former Open champions, better-balled for 68. Sixty-eight! That is almost impossible, with those scores, but the cards tell another story. Duval’s round began at 9:47 a.m. He made a birdie 3 on the 1st. Two groups later, McIlroy went off, in the 10:09 group. He made an 8 and had a whole island cursing the insanity of the intra-course out-of-bounds down the left side of 1. So that saved five shots right there.
On 7, McIlroy returned the favor. He wiped away Duval’s 14 with a birdie 4. Ten shots saved there. That’s 15 saved shots with two holes between the two. The 7th hole alone got McIlroy’s 79 down to 69. The other 16 holes they played in one under par.
You could look at a million pair of cards and never see better-ball improvement like that.