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    February 26, 2020 7:31 AM MSK

    TROON, Scotland -- Rory McIlroy was never more thrilled to be playing the British Open. Shaun Gayle Jersey .Thursday was his first round since he won the claret jug at Royal Liverpool two years ago because he had to sit out St. Andrews with an ankle injury. And finally, he was able to talk about his birdies -- all five of them -- instead of jabs at Olympic golf that caused such a stir earlier in the week.Its nice that the tournament started, McIlroy said after opening with a 2-under 69. I think I said all I needed to say on that matter and hopefully I can go out tomorrow and play similar to the way I did today and get myself right into contention for another claret jug.McIlroy gave away three shots, and a share of the early lead, with two sloppy holes on the back nine at Royal Troon. But in a procession of golfs Fab Four, he made the best of the ideal conditions along the Irish Sea.Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and McIlroy were in separate groups separated by four tee times. Spieth was heard uttering rare words -- I cant buy a putt -- on his way to a 71, while Day made it three straight majors as the No. 1 player in which he failed to break par in the opening round. He had a 73. Johnson played in the easiest conditions and shot 71.MCILROYs MISSIONThe strong talk from McIlroy on the idea of Olympic golf helping to grow the game might have revealed a deeper state of his mind. He is fed up with watching others go to No. 1 and win majors, and there was a sense he was ready to do something about it.He came out firing, and with a third straight birdie on the Postage Stamp par 3 at No. 8, he was 4 under and tied for the lead. That changed with a shot over the green, a poor chip and three putts for a double bogey on the 13th, and he was so angry that he dropped another shot on the 14th.I think if I wouldve stepped on the first tee and someone would have given me a 69, I probably would have taken it, McIlroy said. But if somebody had given me that score on the 10th, I probably would have.The real test could be Friday with rain in the forecast. McIlroy, even with his roots in Northern Ireland, is not regarded as a player who thrives in bad weather. And he was six shots behind Phil Mickelson. His hope is that it clears out by the time he tees off in the afternoon.I dont think were going to see the course like this for the rest of the week, he said.DAYS SLOW STARTDay takes his No. 1 ranking seriously. Maybe too seriously.Favored in all three majors this year, he still cant seem to get off to a good start. Dropped shots on the back nine sent him to a 72 at the Masters. He opened with a 76 at Oakmont and had to play well just to make the cut. And in the ideal conditions at Royal Troon, he shot 73.For the third straight time, he has to spend the rest of the week catching up.Day might be one of the few players hoping for bad weather because it might be his best way to get back into the tournament.Im already missing greens anyways, he said. And if Im going to miss greens, Im going to miss greens on hard days, and if I can just grind myself out and make pars, it would be great. If I can hit a little bit better tomorrow, that would be fantastic.SPIETH STUMBLESSpieth faced two 10-foot birdie putts on his opening holes. He missed them both, a sign of what was to come. The player known as the best putter in todays crop of players required 18 putts on the front nine -- a pair of two-putt birdies, one par save and a three-putt bogey on the ninth.He stared for the longest time at a leaderboard next to the 17th green, realizing that even par wasnt going to cut it on a perfect day as this.When asked what was wrong with his putting, Spieth smiled and said, Thats a question I almost never get asked. So because of that, Im not thinking much of it.He at least hit the ball well from tee to green, calling it his best since he won by eight shots in Hawaii to start the year. He made a lot of putts in Hawaii.JOHNSONS MAJOR ENCOREIn his first round at a major since winning the U.S. Open, Johnson played a round that usually gets rewarded at a U.S. Open -- 14 pars, two birdies, two bogeys. Except this was the British Open, and the conditions were never easier at Royal Troon.He blasted driver on the opening hole toward the sea and made bogey. He played the par 5s in even.Obviously, you have to hole some putts here, he said.Thats true at any major. Jeff Fisher Jersey . The giant slalom world champion slipped during her first run in the morning, landing on her back and then twisting forward before getting her leg caught in the protective material on the side of the slope. Brent Urban Jersey . With the short-handed Warriors needing help from someone -- anyone -- to stop a three-game skid, ONeal returned from right knee and groin injuries that had sidelined him for four games and put up season highs with 18 points and eight rebounds. It was just enough to help lift Golden State to a 102-101 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night. http://www.custombearsjersey.com/ ;. LOUIS -- The New Orleans Saints looked like a team playing out the string. COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina `s defense accepted coach Will Muschamps challenge and his freshman quarterback made his coachs decision to start him look good as the Gamecocks beat East Carolina 20-15 on Saturday.After last weeks loss, Muschamp said he had to find players who could tackle. His defense did him even better, picking off a pass and recovering a fumble in its own end zone and had another interception at the Gamecocks 1. The Pirates only scored on two of six trips into the red zone and didnt have a play longer than 28 yards.All that was enough to take the pressure off Brandon McIlwain in his first start. It wont be his last. Muschamp is turning the Gamecocks (2-1) over to the freshman.Hes got a lot of poise about him, said Muschamp, who decided it was McIlwains time after the Gamecocks offense looked listless in a 27-14 loss to Mississippi State last week. Hes got a lot of the `it factor you look for at that position.McIlwain ran for 34 yards and two touchdowns and was 16-for-28 for 195 yards passing.And dont go telling Muschamp how East Carolina (2-1) gained 519 yards to South Carolinas 312 yards or how Zay Jones caught 22 passes for the Pirates, setting a school record and finishing just one reception away from the Football Bowl Subdivision record.I dont look at the stat sheet and see how many yards they have. I only care about the score, said Muschamp, emphasizing what he thought were even more important statistics for Jones -- the senior had 190 yards receiving and his longest catch was for 15 yards.The Pirates turned the ball over four times and, after committing just seven penalties in their first two games, committed eight penalties Saturday.What I saw in this game is too many penalties. What I saw was too many turnovers. I saw a team that outgained another and a defense that outplayed the other defense. We didnt pull it through at the end, East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery said.THE TAKEAWAYEAST CAROLINA: The Pirates have no one to blame but themselves. They allowed a South Carolina team that hadnt scored a point in the first half in its first two games to jump too a 17-0 lead after an 80-yard kickoff return by A.