After an enthralling first round, Adam Scott equalled the course record for an Open Championship to lead the field at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Scott’s 64 was enough to place him one shot ahead of the chasing pack.
Just days after celebrating his 32nd birthday; the Australian set the early pace with a six under par round. Scott was out during what could only be described as the best scoring conditions of the day and his early score kept him in front by one shot from 1999 champion Paul Lawrie, former Masters winner Zach Johnson and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts. Brandt Snedeker was also close behind them, following his opening round of four under.
Looking a little further back in the field we see a group including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell, Steve Stricker, Peter Hanson and Japan’s Toshinori Muto all on 3 under. No doubt the crowd will be hoping that fan favourites like Watson, Woods and McIlroy will stay in contention as the weekend progresses.
McIlroy could have reason to be disappointed as he made a double bogey on the 15th following a wayward tee-shot that left a fan with a signed glove and split open head. McIlroy was deemed out of bounds following much deliberation but recovered with two birdies in the last three holes to recover.
McIlroy went on to say: “It was playing great and made par on 14. The 15th hit the guy’s head and I did well to keep my composure and to finish with two birdies from last three was great. I didn’t shout fore, I didn’t think I needed to. It is not nice to see, but he said he was ok and that was the most important thing. I was pleased with how I bounced back towards the end. My game feels good and it has got progressively better, everything seems to be in good working order.”
Three-time Open champion Tiger Woods, who is chasing an elusive 15th major title and a first since the 2008 US Open, was pleased with how he played.
“I felt I had pretty good control, I shaped the ball both ways,” said the 36-year-old, who has won three times this season. Sometimes I rode the wind, sometimes I held it against it. I had certain sections I wanted to put the ball in and I did that all day. I only hit one putt that was off line. I just need to hit my putts a bit harder. The greens are not quick, so I’ve got to make an adjustment.”
It was a relatively bad day for England’s two highest ranked players. World number one Luke Donald could only manage a level par round of 70. Compatriot Lee Westwood struggled despite playing in the best of the conditions. He finished three over for the day and will have to do serious damage tomorrow if he wants to be in contention to win that elusive first major.
Defending champion Darren Clarke compiled a six-over 76 and said he was “disgusted with himself”. Padraig Harrington had a quiet enough round and scored a level par 70. The two time Open winner is expected to possibly be a dark horse for the weekend and has made some great charges to challenge in Majors in the past. Could he do it again this weekend is yet to be seen.
Another surprise struggler was Phil Mickelson. The American seemed out of sorts as he slumped to a first round 73 which leaves him lagging behind on three over par.
Scott had the chance to create a little bit of history when he stood seven under with two to play. He needed one more birdie for the first round of 62 in any major.
However, a bogey on the 18th after pulling a two iron off the tee meant he had to settle for equalling the lowest Open round at Lytham, which was set by Tom Lehman on his way to the Claret Jug in 1996. Incidentally Lehman ended the day three over at the scene of one of his greatest triumphs.
“I know there’s never been a 62 and when I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee I did a look at the leaderboard and realised it was a par 70,” said Scott.
“I also probably then realised that I wasn’t going to be the guy to shoot 62. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that. So I got rid of that quickly and got on to playing the 17th, but unfortunately dropped one up the last.”
On a day that saw many faces from the past in resurgent form, it was Peter Lawrie who lead the British charge. The Scot who famously profited from Jean van de Velde’s meltdown to win the Open in a play-off at Carnoustie in 1999, His form has improved massively this season including a victory in Qatar back in March. With the Ryder Cup in September he may throw himself into contention for a place on the team if he keeps this up..
Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, who won the recent Irish Open at Portrush, and England’s James Morrison were in a large group on two under.
The day belonged to Scott though and with Steve Williams by his side; he may just have the best right hand man to help him convert his undoubted talent into a first Major triumph.