Old guard take the lead on day one of Open
Three former Open champions, and each one well over the age of 40, are among the top-10 on the leaderboard after the first day of the 2013 Open.
The trio of past Claret Jug winners include Mark O’Meara (aged 56) who shot a four under par 67, fellow American Tom Lehman (aged 54) shot a three under par 68 and 2004 Open winner Todd Hamilton (the baby of the trio at 47) signed off for a 69.
O’Meara defeated Canadian Brian Watts at Royal Birkdale to win the 1998 Open and while the American continues to be overlooked as a Hall of Famer, he rekindled that winning form of 15 years ago in the sun-splashed conditions to the east of Edinburgh.
O’Meara had five birdies and capped his round with a 17th hole eagle to be sharing second place and just one behind fellow Masters champion, Zach Johnson.
With fellow American Tom Lehman – two years his junior – carding a 68, it proved a good day for the fifty-somethings.
Adam Scott closed round one of the 2013 Open Championship with an even par 71 (Credit: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie)
Twelve months after Scott bogeyed his closing four holes to let slip victory at Royal Lytham and St. Annes and the champion Australian set about making amends with a level par 71 in conditions on the east of Scotland more akin to Spain’s Costa del Sol.
Scott posted four birdies and just as many bogeys to head to the second round trailing five shots behind fellow Augusta National winning hero, Zach Johnson.
Scott’s round is six strokes fewer than his 2002 first day score when The Open was last played at Muirfield while it is also four strokes fewer than his 75 that handed victory last year to Ernie Els.
But in contrast to lush green layout of 11 years ago, Muirfield is yellow and brown with the fairways and greens quickly resembling cricket pitches.
“It’s always hard making birdies at a Major,” said Scott.
“They’re the toughest ones to go by but there was a lot of good stuff in my round today.”
“I had a couple of surprises given how firm the golf course has gotten again overnight, and especially the greens, and there’s some of them as though they have glass around the hole. It’s testing, and you’ve got to be careful.”
World number one, Tiger Woods, recovered from having to take an unplayable penalty drop left of the first hole to shoot a respectable two under par 69.
Woods played a wild 3-wood tee shot off the first hole at Muirfield but then as the crowd began to head down the fairway, Chief Starter Ivor Robson was calling on people to stand still as Woods decided to play a provisional.
However while his original first ball was found it was buried deep in rough easily up to the waist of the 14-time Major champion.
Woods took one look at the lie of the ball and looked over at playing partner and fellow Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen and declaring: “Hey Louis? I’m taking an unplayable.”
Five years since his last Major win, Woods himself was happy to agree after completing an up-and-down round.
“I really played well,” said the world number one, who has four wins under his belt in 2013.
“I had to grind it out. More than anything it was just trying to hang around par. It was tough. I’m very pleased to shoot anything even par or better.”
“My elbow held up great,” he reported. “That’s one of the reasons I took the break, to make sure that was good. I knew the ground was going to be hard over here. That little time off helped. I’ve taken three and four weeks off before Major championships previously, and come back and played well.”
Double Major winning Rory McIlroy posted his second worst Open Championship score of 79.
McIlroy posted just two birdies but also six bogeys and a pair of double bogeys in a score that was just one shot less than the 80 he posted on day two of the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews.
The 24-year-old confessed to feeling “a little lost” as he missed the cut in the Irish Open last month and again cut a downcast figure throughout much of today’s round.
“I don’t know what you can do,” he said.
“You’ve just got to try and play your way out of it. But it’s nothing to do with technique. It’s all mental out there. And then I just need to concentrate, obviously.
“But sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious. I just need to try to think more. I’m trying to focus and trying to concentrate. But I can’t really fathom it at the minute and it’s hard to stand up here and tell you guys what’s really wrong.”
A birdie on the 13th repaired some of the damage but the Northern Irishman then putted off the 15th green into a bunker and ran up his second double bogey in the space of four holes.
McIlroy admitted he was suffering from a lack of confidence and could go back to working with a sports psychologist.
“I’ve worked with Bob (Rotella) before a little bit. It could be beneficial to see someone like that again, we’ll see,” he added.