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Thursday, July 14, 2011

USA TODAY: McIlroy begins bid for 2 straight major title

 By Yahya Harappa

SANDWICH, England — Coming off a dominant win at Congressional, Rory McIlroy is favored to make it two straight major titles in the British Open.
Of course, the weather along the English coast could have a major impact on the U.S. Open champion.
Punishing gusts whipped across Royal St. George's during the practice rounds, and the forecast called for McIlroy to be playing in the worst of the wind over the first two days.
American Jerry Kelly got the tournament started with a drive right down the middle shortly after sunrise Thursday, playing in a light breeze with a sprinkling of rain. He wound up making bogey, but at least that was better than his start at this same course eight years ago.
Kelly began the last Open at Royal St. George's with an 11 on his way to an 86. This time, he failed to take advantage of his opening shot, running his approach though the back of the green and then needing three putts to get down.
The early leaders at 1 under included 51-year-old Mark Calcavecchia, France's Gregory Havret and Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson.
McIlroy, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland, captured his first major title with a record-breaking performance in America last month. He blew away the field by eight strokes, perhaps signaling the start of a new era in a sport that's been dominated by Tiger Woods.
The injury plagued Woods is missing his second straight major because an ailing leg. Into the void stepped McIlroy, who won over the crowds with his joyful style.
"He plays golf with a real flair and a real charisma, and I think fans are drawn to that," Phil Mickelson said. "He plays with this youthful exuberance, and it's fun to watch and see somebody play golf like that and really enjoy it."
McIlroy thoroughly enjoyed himself at Congressional, setting a scoring record at 16 under. The performance showed real resilience, given the way he blew up on the final day of the Masters to squander a four-stroke lead.
"He played beautifully, obviously, and ended up winning," Mickelson said. "But it's not just how he won with his great play, but also the way he interacts with people, the way he draws people to him."
McIlroy was scheduled to tee off at midmorning with South Africa's Ernie Els, a three-time major winner, and young American Rickie Fowler.
Top-ranked Luke Donald was in the group right behind McIlroy, while defending champion Louis Oosthuizen had an afternoon start time.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press of Pakistan. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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