Rookie Cameron Young shoots 8-under 64, leads Open Championship

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The Old Course has never been so fast. The game pace has never been slower.

Thursday’s acclaimed start to the 150th Open Championship gave way to Cameron Young, who made his debut with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot lead over Rory McIlroy.

Young and McIlroy didn’t have to deal with as much wind in the morning, although St Andrews has seen far stronger gusts over its centuries of golfing. Throw in the bumps and hills and tricky pin positions, and the Old Course held its own.

“It’s the fiddliest Open I’ve ever played. That’s the only way I can really describe it,” said McIlroy. “Okay, the 18th at Carnoustie was like a runway, that fairway. But around the greens here and just all the inclines and waves and everything, I think as the tournament progresses you’re going to get some fun jumps and that will test your patience at times.”

Nothing tested patience like the constant waiting. In the late afternoon, the laps lasted just over six hours. They waited at the tee and in the fairway, and it didn’t help that so many players were looking for the best angles to tight pins and playing lefts into other fairways.

Tiger Woods, who also missed the cut at the last Open in St. Andrews in 2015, had the second-worst score of his Open career at 78.

“That’s how the golf course is set up. He’s that strong,” said US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick after his 72 shot over all fairways. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it. It’s just sadder than anything. It’s just ridiculous.”

There were good scores and 54 players broke par, 26 of them with rounds in the 60s.

Young was a surprise leader only because it was his first time competing at Open Links. Having had one of the better rookie seasons on the PGA Tour, the 25-year-old New Yorker isn’t the least bit intimidated by the stage. Just two months ago, he struggled into the final hour of the PGA Championship before finishing a shot from a playoff.

Young played smart and took advantage of the birdie opportunities. He reached 7 under through 12 holes, with the wind helping on the inside nine. He missed two good chances, finished with a birdie and mostly kept bogeys off his card.

“I don’t think I played a perfect round of golf,” Young said. “I scored really well. And I think we thought about how to be out there.”

Young estimates that he only knows a fraction of the secrets of the Old Course – no one ever really understands it all with so many conditions on the ground and in the air – and there was an opportunity on the par 5 fifth when he checked his note in the Yardage Book: “Far left is better than right.” He went left and made a birdie.

“We did stuff like that a couple of times today,” Young said.

Players Championship winner Cameron Smith and England qualifier Robert Dinwiddie each had a 67. Dinwiddie had the best result of the afternoon when the wind was at its strongest. The large group at 66 included Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson and even Barclay Brown, the English amateur who plays at Stanford.

Xander Schauffele, who celebrated his second consecutive win last week, was in Group 69.

Scheffler tried to explain how fast the links played by saying that the ball rolled faster on the fairways than on the greens. Then he realized that it was indeed so. That’s what it’s like in St. Andrews when the ground is crisp and the open meets the gray old town.

“I’m glad I’m not losing my mind,” said Scheffler.

McIlroy looked free as always at St Andrews, his first Open since 2010. His game is in good form and he collected five birdies over 12 holes, with just one careless play resulting in his lone bogey in 13th.

“Fantastic start. Exactly what you hope will happen when you start your week,” said McIlroy. “I did everything you should do near St. Andrews.”

On the other hand, good starts are nothing new this year. He led the PGA Championship after 18 holes and was a shot behind after the first round of the US Open. Both times he couldn’t hold it together until he fell too far behind to catch up.

“I have to go out tomorrow and confirm what I did today,” he said.

Defending champion Collin Morikawa struggled with his putting and had a 72. Morikawa knew how long a day was in store for him when a group was on the fifth tee and the group in front of him was just beginning to head down the fairway.

“Xander and I talked about it. We’re watching more golf than ever before,” Morikawa said, referring to the fact that they both rarely watch TV. “You stay in the fairway and watch two other groups play golf.” Rookie Cameron Young shoots 8-under 64, leads Open Championship

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