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Early honours to Sergio in his battle with Rory

17 July 2011 11:34 BST

Rory Sergio

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, two of the game’s brightest and most charismatic players, are paired together in a personal battle on the final afternoon and the early honours have gone to the Spaniard.

There were solid pars for both at the opening hole and matching birdies at the second. But McIlroy dropped two shots at the short third where no bunkers are necessary to toughen the 240-yard hole which is being played in a strong right to left crosswind. And the Spaniard went further ahead with a monster 70-foot birdie putt at the fourth.

Both have a record of startlingly low rounds in championship golf and as they strode off the first tee today they were in animated conversation. They are too far behind the leaders to have realistic hopes of challenging for the title, but they are bound to provide great golf for the thousands of spectators lining every hole on the links.

McIlroy played in his first Open at Carnoustie in 2007 as an amateur and opened with a bogey-free round of 68. At the end of the week Garcia lost in a play-off to Padraig Harrington. It was the Spaniard’s second major disappointment. Eight years earlier as a 19-year-old he came a close second to Tiger Woods in the USPGA. Their paths crossed again earlier this year when Garcia took seventh place behind the young Irishman’s stunning victory in the US Open at Congressional.

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