Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is leading golf’s British Open by a shot over Italy’s Matteo Manassero, with Tiger Woods three shots back after recovering from starting with two bogeys.
The former U.S. Open winner finished his round at 66 after six birdies at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
“I stuck to my game plan,” McIlroy told the British Broadcasting Corp. “The conditions are absolutely perfect for scoring. I’m playing well. I feel like a holed a few nice putts.”
Five players finished on 4-under: Americans Brooks Koepka and Jim Furyk; Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari and Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
Swede Robert Karlsson, Japan’s Koumei Oda and Marc Leishman of Australia are finished for the day, among five players three shots back. Karlsson had four birdies on the back nine after a bogey on the sixth hole. Oda started with two bogeys and then got four birdies on the back nine.
Woods, who is playing his first major of the season, had five birdies on the back nine after bogeys on the first and second holes.
“Boy that was a rough start,” Woods said. “I just tried to stay patient. When you’re off for four months, that can be tough and compound that with surgery, it’s difficult.”
Meanwhile, five-time champion Tom Watson took the scenic route around Royal Liverpool on Thursday.
"My driving today was pretty pitiful, I was in the rough, or out of bounds, or lost," said Watson, who shot a 1-over-par 73 in a round that included four birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey.
"I hit some decent iron shots, but with the driver, just getting the ball in the fairway was not very good. I am going directly to the practice range so I can work on something I thought about on the 18th tee."
Watson, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, has said Woods was no certainty to make the team — the 14-time major champion is No. 72 in the Ryder Cup standings with only five weeks remaining to earn one of nine automatic qualifying spots.
"I would like to see Tiger do well for selfish reasons to see him get on the team," Watson said. "And 3-under right now is a good start."