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Rory McIlroy was six shots off the pace but happy as Thomas Bjorn made the most of his second chance at Sandwich in the first round of the British Open.

Some eight years after he blew the Open with a disastrous 16th hole to hand the title to American rookie Ben Curtis, Bjorn set the early pace with a five under par 65.

Bjorn, whose dad died in May, was emotional afterwards as he reflected on a round that banished some of the demons of that 2003 collapse when he played the final four holes in four over par to blow a three shot lead.

The Dane only got into the Open as a reserve on Monday and made the most of his chance with the early lead.

US Open champion McIlroy was six shots off the mark set by Bjorn as he signed from a one over par 71 after recovering well from a poor start.

The 22-year-old from Holywood, favorite to become the youngest Open champion since 1893, dropped two shots in the first three holes.

But the Ulsterman, in his first competitive round since Congressional, steadied himself to sign for a one over par 71, the same score as world number one Luke Donald.

“Especially after the start, playing the last 15 in one under par was a pretty good effort,” said McIlroy.

“It was a day where you just needed to grind out a score. Anywhere around even par was a good start.”

McIlroy is well aware that he shot a 63 in the opening round of the British Open at St Andrews last year then followed it with an horrific 80 before eventually finishing in third place.

“On a day like this, I know better than most people you can shoot a high number and put yourself out of the golf tournament,” added McIlroy.

“I said on Wednesday, if the conditions stayed the same I'd take two 70s over the first two days, and if I shoot 69 tomorrow with similar conditions I’ll be really happy going into the weekend.”

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