McIlroy hits an ancient rock and breaks a PGA Tour employee’s arm in an eventful opening open round.

In pursuit of my second Open Championship title, the Northern Irishman made a brilliant start at the Old Course, landing a monstrous 55-foot shot on the starting hole that sent the crowd roaring.

Three pairs in a row followed, and the 33-year-old looked set to follow up with a powerful shot from the fifth tee. However, incredibly, McIlroy’s speed shot was grounded prematurely when he bounced off a rock in the middle of the fairway.

Formed as miniature tombstones and known as March stones, they mark the boundaries of an original path that dates back to the 15th century.

Despite the rock’s best efforts, McIlroy rallied superbly, hitting a par-5 hole before hitting two more in a row to take fourth place after just seven holes.

Speaking to reporters after the round, the four-time champion admitted that while he didn’t notice the stone’s effect on his drive, he chatted with his caddy Harry Diamond about the prospect of the hapless golfer being forced to play a shot. because of one.

“I told Harry that today some poor guy’s ball will be right behind him, because he is right on the shooting line, and I don’t think you will fall,” McIlroy said.

There was also a light-hearted hit on lap partners Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele who scored fifth without any stone interference.

“I think I still missed the other two,” McIlroy laughed as he considered his next punch.

A ghost in 13th was the only flaw on the Northern Irishman’s scorecard as a final birdie on the final hole saw the 2014 champion close out 6-66, leaving him two shots behind club leader Cameron Young.

McIlroy and Morikawa look down the 5th fairway during the first round.

“Fantastic start,” McIlroy said. “Exactly what you hope will happen when you start your week.

“I did everything you have to do in St. Andrews… This is another good start in the Major, three in a row for me. Looking forward to the next few days.”

However, while the Claret Jug remains in McIlroy’s field of vision, one of his few occasional drives has gone unnoticed by any unfortunate onlooker.

Charlie Kane, a PGA Tour staffer, tweeted that he suffered a broken arm after a golfer’s ball hit his knuckle.

The accompanying photographs showed painful bruising, but in conclusion, Kane returned to the field, smiling, albeit in a sling.

“He yelled ahead. I did not heed the warning,” he wrote.

Lots of eagles: Open uses birds of prey to scare away troublesome seagulls

McIlroy is due to start his second round at 2:59 pm BST (9:59 am ET) on Friday.