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J.B. Holmes takes British Open lead with Brooks Koepka lurking

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Golf

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Thumbs down for local hero Rory McIlroy either way.

McIlroy, who grew up on Royal Portrush, flopped in the first round of the British Open on Thursday with a quadruple-bogey eight on the first hole, and a triple-bogey seven on the 18th. It was a Limburger sandwich for the affable four-time major winner, who was widely expected to shine at a place where 14 years ago he shot a course-record 61 in competition at age 16.

That's 18 shots better than his latest, an eight-over-par 79.

Mind the gap.

"I guess when you play your first and last holes in a combined seven over par, you're sort of starting on the back foot," said McIroy, who began as an 8-1 favorite to win it all.

 

He's already 13 shots behind the leader, American J.B. Holmes, who offset his bogey on No. 1 with six birdies the rest of his round. He finished with a 66.

"You just have to accept the conditions over here and not get too greedy and go after some pins," Holmes said. "Try to hit it to the fat of the green, the middle of the green and hopefully make some putts.

"It's a lot different than we play in the States, you're firing at flags and everything else. Here, you're trying to get it in the right spot on the green and make a putt."

Lurking in a large cluster of players who shot 68s is Brooks Koepka, who has won four majors in the past two years -- two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships -- and finished second at the Masters and U.S. Open this year.

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