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Wednesday 15 August 2018

McIlroy drives away Harmon 'robot' remark

Rory happy enough with his position after what he calls a mixed display as Kisner sets the pace

Reaction: Rory McIlroy shows his unhappiness after his play on the 18th green during day one of the British Open at Carnoustie
Reaction: Rory McIlroy shows his unhappiness after his play on the 18th green during day one of the British Open at Carnoustie

Rory McIlroy hit back at suggestions from Butch Harmon that he looked robotic after shooting an opening-round 69 at the Open.

Renowned coach Harmon suggested the former world number one's putting stroke looked too mechanical as he practised at Carnoustie this week.

McIlroy has not won a major in four years with his touch on the greens being regarded as one of his shortcomings of late.

"He looks like a robot out there when I see him practice putting," said Sky Sports pundit Harmon.

McIlroy was unconcerned by the remarks.

The 2014 Open champion said: "Look, I like Butch (but) definitely I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical.

"It's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening.

"I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing, he doesn't know what's in my head.

"So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate but, unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it."

McIlroy was pleased enough with his position after the first round despite admitting his performance was a mixed one, which left him three shots off the lead.

The 29-year-old managed to hit just four out of 15 fairways from the tee and missed some short putts but he picked up three birdies and dropped just one shot.

The Northern Irishman said: "I didn't see the fairway much but it's very playable from not in the fairway. As long as you don't hit it in the fairway bunkers, you're always going to have a shot at the green.

"That's why I tried to stay as aggressive as I possibly could even though I wasn't hitting the driver maybe as well as I could.

"It wasn't pretty off the tee but I got it done and I took advantage of some unfortunate bounces. I would have taken 69 to start the day."

McIlroy did not shirk from using his driver on the longer holes despite the hard and fast nature of the course making length difficult to control. He intends to keep the same approach today. He said: "Hopefully I'll hit a few more fairways but I'll adopt the same strategy."

McIlroy's footwear attracted attention with the soles of his shoes bearing the word 'nasty' - a play on 'Car-nasty', a nickname for the notoriously difficult Carnoustie course.

McIlroy, however, pointed out it was not a personal message.

"All the Nike guys are wearing them," he said.

American Kevin Kisner took the first step towards joining his current housemates in Scotland.

Kisner, who led by a shot after 54 holes of last year's US PGA before finishing seventh, carded a five-under-par 66 to enjoy a one-shot lead over compatriot Tony Finau and the South African pair of Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard. McIlroy's 69 which was matched by Spain's Jon Rahm and the English pair of Danny Willett and Matthew Southgate.

Tiger Woods was among the later starters and arrived at the course with Kinesio Tape visible on the back of his neck, a worrying sign given the 42-year-old's litany of injury problems in recent seasons.

Although the 14-time major winner visibly winced after hitting his opening tee shot, that appeared to be the result of getting some dust from the dry ground in his eye and he went on to make an ideal start with a birdie from 10 feet.

Woods, who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open, also birdied the fourth and followed a bogey on the 10th with another birdie from 35 feet on the next, but dropped shots on the 13th and 15th and had to settle for a level-par 71.

"I thought I played a pretty solid round and unfortunately didn't take care of both par fives and hit (an) eight iron to both of them," said Woods, who described his stiff neck as "no big deal."

"The round could certainly have been a little better," he added.

Kisner is sharing accommodation with defending champion Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker - with eight major titles between them - and Rickie Fowler, with only Fowler and Kisner still seeking their first major success.

But while Spieth slipped from three under to one over by dropping four shots in the last four holes, including a trip into the Barry Burn on 18, Kisner had no such problems thanks to an eagle, four birdies and a solitary bogey.

Darren Clarke carded the joint highest round of his Open Championship career with an 11-over 82.

The champion at Royal St George's in 2011, Clarke followed an opening 69 with an 82 at Hoylake in 2006 to miss the cut. Clarke quipped: "I just hit it too often!"

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