Rory McIlroy hits the front early at the British Open

RoryMcIlroy-1(CNN) — Rory McIlroy led an early morning assault by the world’s best golfers on a toothless Hoylake Thursday to claim the first round lead at the British Open with Tiger Woods also making a promising start to his first major of the season.

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy carded six birdies in a pretty much flawless first round of six-under 66 on the Royal Liverpool seaside links, missing several other opportunities as he peppered the flags with his approach shots.

Warm weather conditions and negligible winds, particularly for morning starters like McIlroy, saw a clutch of stars break 70, including Woods, who opened with a three-under-par 69.

Playing on his second tournament since late March after back surgery, Woods looked rusty on the front nine as he slipped one over, but a hat-trick of birdies on the back nine saw him finish with a spring in his step.

Woods won the British Open in 2006 when it was last held at Hoylake, but has been stuck on 14 major victories since 2008.

McIlroy has two majors to his name, but will be hoping his habit of following up a strong opening with a poor second round will not rear its head again.

In the 2010 British Open at St Andrews he led with a 63 and followed it up with an 80, while at last week’s Scottish Open McIlroy backed up a 64 with a 78 to slip off the pace.

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