Rory McIlroy goes on the attack in pursuit of British Open title
Northern Irishman took the challenge head on and starts Friday's round three shots off leader Kevin Kisner
Rory McIlroy is "convinced" his attacking strategy at the British Open will give him the best chance of winning the title after an encouraging first round at Carnoustie on Thursday.
McIlroy, 29, said in the build-up to the tournament that he wanted to play care-free and risky golf, and he certainly lived up to his expectations after completing his opening round with a two-under par 69.
On the scorched Carnoustie fairways, which closer resemble concrete than a golf course, many players opted to play it safe and plot their way around, wary of the dangers a wayward shot might produce.
However, McIlroy was among a select group of players who chose to attack, often teeing off with driver when others went for a long iron.
His strategy has so far worked, and the four-time major winner signed for his round three shots behind clubhouse leader Kevin Kisner.
“Even if you play aggressive around here, you might make more bogeys than playing it safe, but you're going to make more birdies as well,” McIlroy said.
“I got away with some tee shots, but at the same time, I think that's what I have to do. That's my game plan this week.
“I’m convinced that that's the way that I should play it. It's not going to be for everyone, but it worked out pretty well for me and I would have taken 69 to start the day.”
While McIlroy is sticking to his guns over his attacking game plan, he admitted there were moments of doubt, particularly when he decided to go for the green on the par-4 third. After waiting for 15 minutes for the green to clear, McIlroy's drive found the rough at the back of the green, but he was soon vindicated after an up-and-down delivered his first birdie of the day.
“I’d been waiting so long I didn’t want to mess that up,” he said. “That hole was a validation for me, it proved to me it’s the right way for me to play here, it was a little personal victory.”
One player who has thrived using a more cautious approach is Kisner, who leads after a five-under par 66, which featured four birdies and an eagle.
Kisner chose to use his driver just four times in his opening round, but his more reserved strategy worked wonders as the American enters Friday's second round with a one-shot advantage over compatriot Tony Finau, and South African pair Erik Van Rooyen and Zander Lombard.
“I think I only hit four drivers all day, maybe five," Kisner said. “I just want the ball on the fairway because it's not an overly long golf course. Maybe five iron was the longest.
“I hit a hybrid into 12. You're not going to have that many long clubs into the hole. If I can keep it in the fairway, I feel like I can control my golf ball around the green.”
There was also an encouraging opening round for former US Masters and Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion Danny Willett.
The Englishman, who has struggled for form and fitness over the past two years, struck a two-under 68, and he was satisfied with his score.
“It could have been a really, really nice knock, but at the end of the day it wasn't so. But, again, you take the four days and see where it puts you," Willett said.
“I know the conditions are as simple as what anyone could really ask for out at Carnoustie. Some funky little flags out there, and the wind was flicking around a little bit. For the main part, you're going to see pretty good scoring.”
Updated: July 19, 2018 10:53 PM