The 33-year-old got off to an excellent start with a powerful drive off the fifth tee followed by three consecutive pars. Yet, incredibly, McIlroy’s fast shot landed prematurely when it bounced off a stone in the middle of the fairway.
Shaped like miniature gravestones called March Stones, they mark the edges of the original course, which dates back to the 15th century.
Despite Stone’s best effort, McIlroy rallied brilliantly to birdie the par-5 hole and rattled off two more in a row to sit 4-under after seven holes.
Speaking to reporters after his round, the four-time major champion admitted he had a chat with his caddy Harry Diamond about an unlucky golfer being forced to play a shot, although he didn’t notice the stone impacting his drive. from behind a.
“I told Harry, some poor guy’s ball is going to end up behind it today because it’s right in the shooting range and I don’t think you get a drop,” McIlroy said.
There was also a light-hearted jab at round partners Colin Morikawa and Xander Schaffel, who birdied the fifth with no stone interference.
“I still think it’s past the other two,” laughed McIlroy, reflecting on his follow-up shot.
A bogey at the 13th put the only blemish on Northern Ireland’s scorecard, and a closing birdie on the final hole left the 2014 champion with a 6-under 66 to leave clubhouse leader Cameron Young two shots behind.
“Great start,” McIlroy said. “When you start your week what you expect happens.
“I did everything you need to do around St Andrews … it’s another good start in a big start, three in a row now for me. I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
However, while the claret looked good for Jug McIlroy, one of his few errant drives was not seen by the unfortunate spectators.
Charlie Kane, a PGA Tour employee, tweeted that the golfer suffered a broken arm after his ball hit his knee.
Accompanying pictures showed a painful bruise, but Kane was still sporting a sling and certainly smiling throughout.
“He yelled in front and I didn’t heed the warning,” he wrote.
McIlroy is scheduled to tee off in his second round on Friday at 2:59 p.m. BST (9:59 a.m. ET).