The American returned an unblemished scoreboard as he set the clubhouse goal at eight under with a bogey-free 64, two strokes ahead of 2014 champion Rory McIlroy.

As the two golfers teeed off on the Old Course before 10 a.m. local time, the pair took full advantage of the gentle morning winds to race past the 156-man field.

A two-time winner of the Korn Ferry Tour – the PGA Tour’s development series – Young is making his third major debut this year following his first appearances at the Masters and the PGA Championship. Although he missed the first cut, the 25-year-old played in Tulsa in May, finishing one stroke behind the winner and compatriot Justin Thomas.

Having played at the Old Course while visiting with his family as a 13-year-old, St Andrews holds a “special” place in Young’s heart.

It’s just impossible to hide how special this place is,” he told reporters.

“It has certainly been a goal to get to an open championship. And for my first one here, it’s a bit more special for me.”

However, with tee times reversed and Young potentially facing trickier conditions on Friday afternoon, the American quickly went from sentimentality to focus heading into round two.

“Things can change in an instant, especially here given how important the rebounds are and the mindset you have,” he added.

“I might struggle tomorrow. Who knows? I might still shoot 64. But I think it’s just important for me to take tomorrow as it comes and do what I can.”

McIlroy “settles” in pursuit

McIlroy’s eventful round went beyond his impressive scoring, with the Northern Irishman hitting both an ancient stone and a spectator en route to carding a six-under 66.

A bizarre start to the fifth hole saw the Northern Irishman’s tee shot bounce off a March Stone – one of several ancient stones around the fairways that mark the boundaries of the original course – before bouncing off with a birdie . Later, one of his wandering readers fractured the hand of a PGA Tour employee, who returned to the course in a sling.

McIlroy plays from the fourth fairway.

Short of a “too cute” second hit that led to his only bogey of the set in the 13th, the four-time major winner was content with a good day’s work.

“Everything seems very settled,” McIlroy told reporters.

McIlroy hits ancient rock - and breaks PGA Tour employee's hand - in eventful first round

“I’m pretty good at this game, I think I know what I’m doing. I just needed to take it back,” he added.

amateurish ambition

Cameron Smith trails the Northern Irishman by a stroke, while England amateur Barclay Brown provides the pick of names from the string of golfers tied for fourth at four under.

Arriving at St Andrews via a final qualifier in June, the 21-year-old quickly became a crowd favorite in the stands as three birdies in the final seven holes capped a hugely impressive first round.

Brown waves to the crowd after a birdie on the 17th.

“I was incredibly nervous at first,” he admitted to reporters.

“Then once I got through the first two holes, it was good to calm down a bit and hit some good shots and get in there.”

Meanwhile, fellow Englishman Matt Ford – who told CNN of his decades-long effort to qualify for the tournament – impressed in his first major appearance, carding an under-71.

Woods fight

Brown hadn’t even been born when Tiger Woods won the first of his three Open Championships at St Andrews in 2000, and the youngster looks unlikely to see the American add a fourth in person after Woods endured a difficult first round .

Carding a 6 from 78 that went tied for 146th on his return to the clubhouse, the 15-time major winner was roared relentlessly by St Andrews fans and received a rapturous reception on the last tee.

Crowds flocked to follow his round and roared each of his three birdies as if he were vying for the top of the standings once again, but, as Woods acknowledged on Wednesday, that is his “difficult” new reality. .

Woods endured a tough afternoon.
Despite claiming he felt ‘much stronger’ physically, the 46-year-old had been candid about coming to terms with his body’s new limits following the serious leg injuries he suffered in a car accident last year.
After teeing off at 2:59 p.m. local time, Woods and his two playing partners — compatriot Max Homa and new US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick — only completed their round just over six hours later. However, Woods told reporters after his round that his day was “much easier” on his body than his previous two major events, which included a PGA Championship retirement.

“I didn’t really feel like I hit that badly, but I ended up in bad places or just had weird things,” he said.

“Links is like that, and this golf course is like that. I had my chances to turn it around and roll it the right way and I didn’t.”

Of St. Andrews’ support, Woods added, “They were fantastic, absolutely fantastic. So supportive.”

Woods was the center of attention at St. Andrews.

By his own recent high standards, Fitzpatrick also endured a tough night, bogeying three times to finish even for the opening day. Like Woods though, the Briton was backed with passion throughout, and a birdie in the 18th to score a par-72 ensured a crowd-pleasing finish.

The first group of Friday’s second round is scheduled to start at 6:35 a.m. BST (1 a.m. ET), with leader Young scheduled to start at 1:26 p.m. BST (8:26 a.m. ET).

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