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McIlroy among favorites despite first British Open

TURNBERRY, Scotland — British bookmakers have listed Rory McIlroy as the third favorite at Turnberry, unusual for someone playing in his first British Open as a pro.

Stranger still is that he doesn’t seem fazed, perhaps because his age (20) matches the odds (20-1).

McIlroy already has shown in small doses that he is capable.

He comes from Holywood — a coastal town in Northern Ireland, not to be confused with the glitz of Los Angeles — and already is easily recognized by his freckles and curly brown hair that tumbles out of his cap and over his ears. He made his British Open debut as a teenager two years ago at Carnoustie and opened with a 68 on the toughest links in golf.

And without knowing it, he can put on quite the exhibition.

On a surprisingly sun-splashed day along the Ayrshire Coast, McIlroy found a flat part of the putting green Wednesday, and his caddie marked off 8 feet with a chalk line. The kid rapped three balls at a time, stopping to chat, constantly smiling, not really paying attention.

He made 105 putts in a row, seemed to lose interest, then moved on to another hole 30 feet away.

One reason he is getting so much attention, beyond the talent that allowed him to win the Dubai Desert Classic this year and rise to No. 22 in the world ranking, is constant search for someone to challenge Tiger Woods.

Even at golf’s oldest championship, the focus turns to youth.

McIlroy will be playing the first two rounds with 24-year-old Anthony Kim, who is No. 15 in the world and an explosive talent. Martin Kaymer, the 24-year-old German, is coming off consecutive victories on the European Tour and can became the first player since Seve Ballesteros in 1986 to make it three in a row.

Among the ‘‘older set’’ are 29-year-old Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, who turns 29 on Thursday when the British Open begins.

So far, it has been a hopeless pursuit.

Woods set an obscure PGA Tour record two weeks ago when he won his AT&T National at Congressional for his 53rd victory this decade, topping the previous record of Ben Hogan, who won 52 times in the 1940s.