South African Louis Oosthuizen leads the Open Championship on day one after becoming the first player in the field to reach six-under par at Royal St George’s.
The 2010 Open champion has finished second at the US Open and USPGA Championship this year and is in major contention once again after a round of 64.
Jordan Spieth is also off to a fast start after a five-under round of 65 which featured six birdies. Playing alongside Speith, fellow American Bryson DeChambeau had to settle for a one-over 71.
The big-hitter revealed after his round that he is unhappy the club face on his driver after a number of wayward tee shots.
DeChambeau’s nemesis Brooks Koepka is well positioned after a two-under 68. Dustin Johnson is on the same score.
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, Brian Harman, Stewart Cink and Dylan Frittelli are also going well at the top of the leaderboard.
Latest updates below.
Morikawa holes another long putt on the 16th
He will be hard to beat if the flatstick is hot with his iron game. Moves to three-under after a two on the 16th.
Fleetwood picks up a shot as he makes the turn
Holes a birdie putt from 20 feet or so on the ninth to move into red figures. There has been a strong English challenge on the first day at St George’s.
Bounceback birdie for McIlroy
He rolls in the birdie putt at the eighth and he gets back to one-over. Frenchman Benjamin Herbert is going really well and has reached four-under after a birdie on the par five 14th.
Chance goes for Morikawa at the 15th
The birdie putt slips by and he stays at two-under. Lovely approach on the eighth from McIlroy and he will have 10 feet or so to get back one of those shots he has just dropped.
Shots going like confetti at the seventh
Patrick Reed and McIlroy have both made bogey sixes, paying the price for finding the left rough off the tee. That’s three straight bogeys for McIlroy. A quick start fizzling out.
Corey Connors going well
He played well at Kiawah Island and is now three-under for day thru 14 holes.
Birdie at the 14th for Molinari
Has been in the doldrums since winning this tournament at Carnoustie three years ago, but a birdie has moved him to two-under for his day. McIlroy is back on the fairway on the seventh.
Equipment problems for DeChambeau
Left rough for McIlroy on the seventh
This par five is out of range in two anyway but that’s the first really loose tee shot McIlroy has hit today.
Reed holes from long range
The birdie putt pours in from 30 feet or more and Reed is back to level par. McIlroy played a fine second from sand but another putt slips by and that’s consecutive bogeys. Back to one-over now.
To the par three sixth…
Reed gets a nice kick from the backboard behind the green and his ball comes to rest on the putting surface. McIlroy loses his tee shot to the right and finds the bunker.
Shot goes for McIlroy
It was a good pitch from short of the green but the putt from five feet lips out. He drops back to level par.
Stunning approach from Fleetwood on the sixth
Uses the contours left to feed the ball to within kick-in range on the par three. That will be a certain birdie to get back to level par.
Patrick Reed was in all sorts of trouble on the fifth
Deep in the hay on the side of a dune miles left. Did well to advance the ball to the tough around the green. McIlroy’s second stalled in the wind and came up 25 yards shy.
Good save from McIlroy
That’s a birdie and three straight pars to start with. Solid stuff. He has also found the right side of the fairway on the fifth. Will be a blind second coming up.
Back at the fourth
McIlroy will have almost five feet for par after his second shot flew over the green down the breeze. It was another shot right over the top of the flag though.
Decent response from Thomas
After a pair of wayward drives to start his round he is now one-under and in the middle of the fifth fairway. Settling down.
Over at the 12th, Patrick Cantlay has jammed a putt in from 60 or 70 feet across the green for birdie. That gets him back to level par.
Morikawa going well
One of the best iron players in the world and he has holes his share of putts today. Last year’s USPGA champion is two-under through 10.
Two putt par from McIlroy on the third
Covered the pin with his tee shot at the downwind par three, releasing out to 25 feet or so. A simple par.
If there is such a thing as a good bogey, Schauffele has just holed a lengthy putt to make one at the fourth to drop back to one-over.
Snedeker’s holed second at the 17th
Chance goes for McIlroy
It was another beautifully played hole on the second, finding the fairway and ripping a wedge back from beyond the hole to within birdie range. The putt slips past and that’s a par.
Par-pat start from Fleetwood
That’s a good putt from long range at the second.
Flying start from McIlroy!
Perfectly flighted wedge shot from 102 yards, gets a little bit of backspin and it settles down four feet from the hole. He converts with the putter and that’s a birdie start. Big cheers from the gallery around the first green.
Rory McIlroy on the first tee
Good start from McIlroy, much better than at Royal Portrush two years ago when he dragged an iron into the hay, finds the right side of the fairway. Patrick Reed is alongside him, and leaks one into the right rough.
Snedeker holes out for eagle on the 17th!
Slam dunks a wedge straight into the hole to move to two-under. A contender for shot of the day.
Dustin Johnson cleans up for par on the 18th
That’s a solid start from the man who contended here in 2011. A two-under 68.
Back at the first tee, Justin Thomas has sprayed one a long way right. Tommy Fleetwood takes driver and is in decent position.
Schauffele and Robert MacIntyre on the first
Schauffele finds the first cut of rough to the right while MacIntyre, the only Scot in the field, finds the fairway. Lee Westwood has finished up on the 18th, for a one-over 71.
Phil Mickelson is under way
Fairway and green on the first. Zalatoris has bogeyed the 17th after a twitch putt from no more than a foot or 18 inches.
Rahm finishes with a close birdie
That will make his late lunch taste better, a three on the 18th means the US Open winner is in the clubhouse at one-over.
That man he pipped at Torrey Pines, Oosthuizen, rolled in his par putt to finish off a bogey free-round of 64 just one short of the course record. The tournament leader!
All pars on the back nine for Rahm
Not the day he was hoping for at two-over. That double bogey on the ninth was a set-back, but he is in the 18th fairway though and plays a good iron shot to set up a birdie putt from 10 feet.
Oosthuizen’s third from 77 yards is a fine one, spinning back to eight feet or so. Chance to save par.
Spot of trouble for Oosthuizen
His drive on the 18th looked good but it kicked off a ridge in the fairway and bounced into a fairway bunker left. Might not be able to reach the green from there.
Birdie at the 16th for Zalatoris
An up and down round for him, but he his now three-under and just three behind. Dustin Johnson scares the hole on the 16th but stays at two-under with a par.
Another birdie for Harman
He has holed more than his share of putts today, and joins Spieth at five-under. Frittelli has made a par four on the 18th to get himself in the clubhouse at four-under.
Dustin Johnson has picked up a birdie over at the 14th to move to two-under.
Perfect position on the 17th from Oosthuizen
Another booming drive downwind, the South African will have not much more than a pitch left for his second shot.
A good omen?
DeChambeau’s birdie putt slips by
That is a one-over round of 71. Not out of the reckoning by any means but will need to be tidier from tee to green to move up the leaderboard tomorrow.
No mistake from Spieth over his return par putt, and that’s a cracking round of five-under 65. The ideal start.
Another birdie for Oosthuizen
He converts after stuffing his approach in close at the 16th. The tournament has a new leader at six-under and that is Oosthuizen’s sixth birdie in nine holes. Sublime golf.
Delightful from DeChambeau on 18
A huge drive of more than 320 yards into a hurting breeze, and a pin point iron shot to set up a birdie chance to get back to level par. Spieth is in the middle of the green in two but further away. Dylan Frittelli the South African has made a birdie to reach four-under.
Another bogey for DeChambeau at the 17th
He tumbles back to one-over. Spieth had to settle for a par to stay at five-under. Decent start for Tony Finau who is one-under through for holes.
Stewart Cink playing some lovely stuff too, he birdies the 15th to move to four-under.
Dustin Johnson back at the 14th
He came unstuck here when in contention in 2011 when he sprayed his second shot out of bounds right. Finds the fairway with a lovely tee shot this time, no obvious signs of mental scar tissue.
Tough for Spieth to stop his pitch
The breeze at his back did him no favours there on 17, but he will have a birdie putt from 25 feet coming up. That’s in his wheelhouse.
Rose has found rough down the left of the par five 14th.
Spieth and Hughes have company
Oosthuizen looks in control of his game, and reaches five-under with a birdie four at the 14th.
Another birdie for Rose
He has sneaked up on the rails to three-under with a birdie at the 13th. Slowly warming to his task after a trick start.
Cracking drive at the 17th from Spieth
Will not have much left from there on a downwind par four. Could be another birdie on the way, which would see the 2017 Open champion move into the lead on his own.
Speith cans one on the 16th!
A hearty roar from the grandstands around the par three, and Spieth has made his sixth birdie of the day to reach five-under with a putt holed from 25 feet or so. Now tied with Hughes at five-under.
What a round from Jack Senior
The Englishman who is 280th in the world rankings is one of the leaders in the clubhouse at three-under.
Another birdie chance coming up for Oosthuizen after a delightful approach at the 14th. Would move him to five-under.
33 players are under par
The rain last week and relatively benign weather today has taken some of the teeth out Royal St George’s. One player who isn’t under par is DeChambeau, who falls back to even par with a bogey at the 15th.
Cracking approach from Spieth, and this time he converts the birdie to move to four-under alongside Oosthuizen and Harman, one behind Hughes.
Four birdies in six holes for Oosthuizen
The latest coming on the 13th and he moves to four-under, just one behind Hughes.
Will Zalatoris holes out for eagle at the 12th!
He jumps up the leaderboard to three-under.
DeChambeau’s eagle putt comes up short
But that is a third birdie on the spin to move into red figures. Good recovery after a rough start. Dustin Johnson joins him at one-under with a birdie 2 at the 11th.
Spieth was up and out of that putt early, and a chance goes begging. Stays at three-under.
Delicious pitch from Spieth on the 14th
Gets the spin he was looking for on the second bounce and will have five feet or so for another birdie to move to four-under for the day.
To the par five 14th…
Good second from rough by Spieth to find the mouth of the green. Magnificent second shot from DeChambeau with a mid to long iron and he will have 20 feet or so for an eagle three!
The leader in action
Brian Harman not going away
After two bogeys in four holes around the turn, the doughty American has birdied the 13th to get back to four-under. One behind the leader Hughes.
Birdie for Justin Rose at the 10th
Some of his long game has looked ragged today but he has kept his card clean. A second birdie of the day moves the Englishman to two-under.
A man for the big occasion
Shot goes for Koepka on the 18th
Putts in that six feet range are a weak spot on Koepka’s game and his par putt slips past at the last after finding the green in regulation. Still, that’s a one-under 69 to start with. Well placed.
DeChambeau bouncing back
Now level par after making his second consecutive birdie on the 13th. The dangerous par five 14th, with out of bounds all the way down the right coming up next. In practice, DeChambeau carried the ditch which runs across the fairway at 340 yards…
Sergio making a move
Solid start from Casey
No worries from short-range on the 18th, that’s a bogey free round of two-under 68 for starters. Just inside the top 10 as things stand.
We have a new leader
Mackenzie Hughes has made his fifth birdie for the day to reach the giddy heights of five-under thru 12!
Another bogey for Johnson
Misses from five or six feet at the ninth and he will reach the turn at level par.
Up at the 18th green, Ian Poulter has made a bogey five to finish with a two-over 72.
Spieth finds the middle of the 13th green
Wasn’t happy with his iron shot mid flight with the wind in his face, but he is in no bother. Outside chance for a birdie coming up. DeChambeau betters him with an approach to around 10 feet. Chance for back to back birdies.
Sergio Garcia reaches the turn at two-under
Had a quiet time of late, but has a stack of top-10 Open finishes. He makes a birdie three at the ninth to move to two-under.
Casey solid on the last
Punches his approach forward from the gnarly rough and sneaks it onto the front of the green. Should be able to two putt for a tow-under 68 from there.
Back on the tee on the same score, Koepka catches a good break as his drive stops half a foot or two shot of a bunker.
Birdie for Bryson
That will make him feel better about things, holes from long range for a birdie three on the 10th. Gets him back to one-over. Oosthuizen makes another birdie to move to three-under. The South African is thriving in another major.
Dropped shot for Dustin Johnson
The 2020 Masters champion is playing some nice stuff today, but he fritters one away with a bogey on the eighth to drop back to one-under.
Huge drive from Paul Casey on the par four 17th, but he fails to take advantage and has to settle for a par. Still going well at two-under has he walks to the 18th tee.
Rahm’s spot of bother
Good par save from Hovland
The young man rolls one in from six or seven feet for a par on the 17th. Going well at three-under. Brooks Koepka has made a safe par three at the 16th to stay at two-under, and Spieth holes another good par putt to stay at three-under thru 11 holes.
Another birdie for Mackenzie Hughes
The Canadian gets to four-under and joins Brian Harman at the top of the leaderboard, with Harman making par at the 10th.
Rahm has indeed taken 6th at the 9th to fall back to two-over par. Oosthuizen alongside Rahm makes birdie to get to two-under.
Jon Rahm gets greedy
Found sand off the tee on the par four ninth and tried to advance his second to the green but did not get the required loft – the ball rebounded off the face of the bunker and back to his feet. He splashes out into the fairway, but will now have to get up and down from 150 yards or so to avoid a double bogey.
DeChambeau recovers well to hold par
After a wayward tee shot, the lippy American produces several remarkable recovery shots to rescue himself on 10. He stays at +2.
Danny Willett has just come off the course, four birdies on the back nine help him to finish his first round on a commendable -3.
Harman drops his first shot of the day
He’s down to +4 after bogeying the 9th and has shot a remarkable 31 on the front nine.
Koepka moves to two under
After a shaky start, Koepka is finding his rhythm as he moves back into the top ten with a birdie. He’s three shots off the lead and well placed so far
DeChambeau falls to +2
He finishes the front nine with back-to-back bogeys. He’s seven off the lead already and he has a lot of work to do already at the Open Championship
Another birdie for Harman
He moves to -5 and he’s only played eight holes. He holds a two shot lead over the rest of the field. For the record, the lowest score ever at Royal St. George’s is 63, a -7 on the par 70…
The styles of Spieth v DeChambeau
DeChambeau misses the course
The nightmare continues on the front nine from the bombastic American. His tee shot on nine skews so far left it fully clears all the spectators and lands somewhere near the North Sea
DeChambeau bogeys 8
A wayward second shot means the American has dropped a shot on one of the easiest holes on the course today. The Open has rarely been kind to Bryson…
Spieth meanwhile has no problem navigating 8, that’s his FOURTH birdie in a row. He’s come out like a house on fire to start his first round
Shane Lowry gets a shot back
The reigning champion finally has his first birdie of the day after having makeable putts for birdie on four and five. He’s back down to +1 and perhaps that’s the kick he needs to get going.
Jon Rahm also birdies six to get back to par.
The first finishers are heading back to the club house
Those who were up bright and early this morning are now back in the club house for a late breakfast.
Bland bogeys the final hole to finish his round on level par, while Sullivan birdies to record an excellent -3. Armitage also comes in under par at -1.
Spieth birdies again
He’s on the move here Spieth, he moves to two under, two shots back of the lead, with three straight birdies. He’s navigating the wind well, with the flight of his ball staying relatively low when he plays with the irons.
DeChambeau gets his first birdie as well as he moves back to level par.
A reminder of who’s still to tee off
Still some massive names yet to get underway at Sandwich:
12.20pm – Jason Day
12.53pm – Tony Finau
1.15pm – Francesco Molinari
2.48pm – Phil Mickelson
2.59pm – Xander Schauffele
3.21pm – Rory McIlroy
A reminder of the blind shots at the course this weekend
Four birdies in five for Harman
Searing start from the American as he goes four under through the first five holes! His lead is now two shots and he very nearly sank a fifth birdie on the fourth hole as well
Brooks Keopka drives one four hundred yards
Spieth gets back to back birdies
The young American is building momentum, he sinks another fine putt to take him to -1
Lowry drops a second shot
Rahm stays level with a third par. Lowry faces a pressure putt as his title defence gets off to a shaky start. He rescues a bogey from a rocky situation and he’s +2 through the first three. Nightmare for the Northern Irishman.
Elsewhere, Dustin Johnson is in the rough as he tees off from the second hole, while Sullivan misses a birdie putt on 16 to stay at -2. Great round from the early starter.
Flying start for the current leader
Spieth gets back to par
A tremendous long putt from off the green at the fifth gets the American back level.
Koepka gets his second birdie of the day
He gets himself one under entering the back nine.
Elsewhere, Lowry recovers from another poor opening pair of shots to avoid a bogey-bogey start. He’s +1 through two
Justin Rose gets underway
The 2013 US Open champion strides out in his shades and booms his opening drive right down the middle. He navigates that tricky opening tee shot well.
Harman begins red hot
The American fires out three straight birdies to start and he goes to three under, the first man to reach that total and he takes a one shot lead over Casey, Horsfield, Dahmen and Hovland who all sit at -2
Lee Westwood tees off
Alongside Martin Kaymer, Westwood continues his pursuit of a first major with a solid drive.
Shaky start for the most talented group of the day
Lowry swaps the rough on one side for the other, not the best start for the reigning champion. Meanwhile, Rahm and Oosthuizen are on the green in two. He recovers with a wonderful pitch on to the green and within ten feet of the pin to rescue par, but can only two-putt from there, dropped shot early. Rahm and Oosthuizen also two putt for par.
Elsewhere, Harman gets himself to two under in double quick time to join the leaders while DeChambeau is in the deep rough once again off the fourth tee.
Here comes the reigning champ
Probably the most mouthwatering group of the day enters the first tee box to rapturous applause – reigning Open champion Shane Lowry is underway along with current US Open champion Jon Rahm and South African great Louis Oosthuizen.
Lowry grimaces as his tee shot skews into the thick rough on the right. World no.2 Rahm, the favourite with the bookies this weekend at 8/1, executes a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway, showing his driving prowess early doors. Oosthuizen follows Rahm’s lead.
DeChambeau rescues par
I spoke a little too soon DeChambeau chips on well and then sinks a twelve foot putt to rescue par. He stays at +1
Incredible shot from Joe Long
The amateur hits a fine, fine tee shot on the par three six and he’s within inches of a hole in one. What an excellent bit of iron play off the tee!
Another shaky hole from DeChambeau
His tee shot at the second ends up in the thick rough and causes him to miss the green with his second shot. He’ll do well to rescue par from here.
Meanwhile, Koepka leaves a birdie putt agonisingly short on the 7th. He stays at level par.
Casey continues to quietly sparkle
Another excellent tee shot from the leading Englishman lands plumb in the middle of the fairway on the 8th. He’s yet to drop a shot today as he stays at -2 so far.
DeChambeau drops an early shot
After an awkward chip shot that he leaves well short, DeChambeau drops a shot. Not a good start. His two playing partners today – Jordan Spieth and Brandon Grace – two putt for par.
Well here he comes…
In a typically flair shirt, Bryson DeChambeau tees off with Jordan Spieth in group 16. Spieth finds himself in the semi-rough to start, not the worst outcome given what happened to Koepka and Poulter earlier.
DeChambeau plumps for an iron over a driver as he follows Spieth into the semi-rough on the right.
Horsfield gets to two under
Great approach play on the seventh gives him a simple birdie putt which he doesn’t miss. He joins Casey at -2, as Sullivan drops his third shot of the day with a bogey on 11.
The Englishmen dominating the first morning here
Tremendous putt from Poulter
He gets himself back to level par after a wonderful long putt on the sixth
Sullivan birdies as he starts the back nine
Great birdie putt as the first group enters the back nine. He gets back on top of the leaderboard in a tie with Paul Casey at -2
Watch Richard Bland start the firing gun of the 149th Open Championship
After two years away, it means the world to be back…
Koepka finally finds a fairway
It’s taken five holes, but the American finally finds a decent drive. Further ahead on the hole, Poulter chips a delicious shot to within the dustbin lid
Gooch birdies the opening hole
Good start for the American, he joins the thick of the pack at one under
The jumpers are off for the early starters
The sun is shining and the weather looks just perfect down on the Kent coast. Stiff breeze blowing in but barely a cloud in the sky…
Koepka in the rough again
For the third time in the opening four holes, Brooks Koepka miscues his drive into the rough. Poor start from the four-time major winner.
But he recovers remarkably again, as with the first, he once again finds the green with his second shot, giving him a chance to recover for par.
Willett and Sullivan join Casey at -2
Three Brits flying the flag of St George at Royal St George’s here early
Paul Casey into the lead
Great start from Casey, he sinks another birdie on the third to take himself to two under and he’s all alone in the lead now. Very early days…
Koepka drops a shot
After two wayward drives on the first two holes, Brooks Koepka plays a loose par putt and misses by a foot. He’s put himself under pressure early with those poor tee shots and he’s one over through two
Speaking of a ‘1’ champion…
Darren Clarke is up on teebox no.1 to thunderous applause. The hefty Irishman smacks one down the right and it just slides out of the semi-rough on to the fringes of the rough
Open Championship’s doomed roll of honour
Further to James Corrigan’s ‘Curse of the “1” Champions’ post at 7am, here’s a recap on what happened to past champions of ‘01.
Bill Rogers (1981) Victory at Royal St George’s proved the American’s one and only major success, as he failed to make the cut 11 times out of his 18 subsequent appearances.
Ian Baker-Finch (1991) Victory at Royal Birkdale came at the eight attempt to win The Open, but the Australian’s professional career was done and dusted just six years later with just two further top-10 finishes.
David Duval (2001) Remarkable year saw him finish second at the Masters and tied-10th at the PGA Championship either side of winning at Royal Lytham & St Annes, but his career spiralled into decline soon after with 25 missed cuts out of 33 majors.
Darren Clarke (2011) A best of T-21 since that fateful day at Sandwich 10 years ago says all you need to know about Clarke’s form since his victory – but then he’d gone nine years and 28 majors without a top-10 finish before lifting the Claret Jug.
Sullivan drops his first shot of the day
First bogey for the leader as he drops back to -1 with a dropped shot on 7.
Ian Poulter also misses his long par putt and he is +1 after two.
Poulter with a poor chip shot
Normally such a strength of his game, the Brit leaves one very short as he chip into the wind and he will struggle to rescue par from there at the second
Koepka hacks his way out of trouble
After an extremely wayward tee shot, the American recovers with a remarkable second shot out of the rough that, amazingly, finds the green. It’s two-putt territory but it’s a great recovery nonetheless.
Casey goes one under
Paul Casey gets himself under par right out of the gate with some great approach play. Very much mixed fortunes on that first hole for everyone today, very few pars so far.
Brooks Koepka tees off
All eyes are on his rivalry with Bryson DeChambeau this weekend. The four-time major winner Koepka leads group number nine out with a big booming drive that lands deep in the right hand rough. Wobbly start
Justin Rose using new Rose Ladies Series tribute bag this week
Paul Casey and Ian Poulter tee off
Two of the big name Brits get their Open campaigns underway. Casey the first man in the teebox and his drive hugs the left side of the fairway.
Ian Poulter, after a rapturous reception, joins Casey down the left side. Can he win his first ever major?
Dustin Johnson arrives
Andy Sullivan continues his hot start
He plays the split fairway of the fifth perfectly leaving himself a short par putt. The debutant holds on to his lead.
Ian Poulter will be teeing off in five minutes time.
Viktor Hovland tees off
One of the favourites for the tournament at 30/1, Hovland gets himself off to a decent start with a solid drive into the semi-rough on the left of the fairway. The seventh group is off
Noren sinks his first birdie of the day
The Swede gets himself under par with a composed putt on the second, he joins Ritchie, Willett and Sullivan in the red numbers.
Sullivan goes two under
Outstanding putt! Andy Sullivan with a long putt on the fourth but he sinks his second birdie of the day to get to two under
Danny Willett with an outstanding second shot
A delightful wedge shot leaves him within inches of the hole and duly sinks an easy birdie putt. Great start for the former Masters champion.
Burmester too has recovered from his wayward opening drive as he sets up a simple par putt
Upcoming tee times
Some big names coming out in the next 90 minutes or so…
8.03am: Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak, Garrick Higgo
8.23am: Darren Clarke, Bernd Wiesberger, Joe Long
9.03am: Ernie Els, Gary Woodland, Cole Hammer (a)
9.25am: Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Branden Grace
The fifth group are off
Burmester from South Africa is the first man to choose and iron off the tie and he slices a disastrous shot into the deep rough on the right.
Danny Willett steps up to thunderous applause and he drives his first shot straight and true down the middle of the fairway.
Finally, amateur Sheperd smashes his drive down the fairway. It’s an enormous shot, and it rolls past Willett’s drive but continues into the bunker. Two poor starts there.
Lorenzo-Vera with a bogey to start
After a wayward start that saw his second shot land short of the green in the bunker, the Frenchman misses a short par putt right. He’s the fourth person to bogey the opening hole
JC Richie underway
The South African, making his Open debut to a warm reception from those at Sandwich bright and early, bounds his tee shot into the semi-rough down the left. The fourth group of the day are underway
Bland, Armitage drop a shot on the second
He left a twelve-foot putt a smidge short, he bogeys the second and joins Li as the only men from the early groups over par. Fellow Brit Armitage also drops a shot after his second shot became a bit lost in the wind.
Sullivan the first man under par
He birdies the first, the first birdie of the 149th Open Championship.
The weather is glorious down in Sandwich with the golden morning light bathing the famous course, though a stiff sea breeze is blowing in across the course.
The curse of the ‘1’ champions
by James Corrigan in Sandwich
The only curses in which Darren Clarke has complete conviction are those which invariably emerge through his larynx after a skewed drive or a yanked tiddler. But even he has to admit that the fate which befell him and last four players who won The Open in years ending in “1” is at the very least a strange coincidence.
Clarke in 2011, David Duval in 2001, Ian Baker-Finch in 1991, Bill Rogers in 1981. All great players, but all great players who after lifting their one and only Claret Jug, which was also their one and only major trophy, proceeded to embark on some of the biggest slumps the game has ever witnessed.
“It is spooky, but I wouldn’t analyse it too thoroughly – the winner this week shouldn’t be worried,” Rogers told me. “But it’s interesting. If only because we went through similar experiences and all coped with it differently.”
Forty years ago, Rogers beat Bernhard Langer here by four shots – and seven years later he was a club pro. Four titles in one year, ranked unofficially as the world No 2 and then, over the next five seasons, Rogers was to win one more tournament – the lowly USF&G Classic – and miss 10 out of 12 cuts in the majors.
Within three years of his Open win he was down in 134th on the money list. Rogers was earning nothing but heartbreak. “When you win the Open it’s a complete game-changer, it changes everything,” he said. “Everyone wants to see you, everyone wants you to come and see them. I didn’t disappoint. I went and saw them all. From Australia to Asia, from Europe to South Africa, I took the endorsements, grabbed the opportunities.
“Some will say I grabbed them too hard and they may be right. But there is no doubt I felt more in control of who I was and what I was doing before Sandwich. Yet I don’t have any regrets at all. I sampled the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, the whole range of emotions a professional golfer can experience. And for that I was honestly grateful.”
Rogers had lost control, lost his game and was determined not to lose his head. “It’s a big thing to accept that you will always be introduced as ‘Bill Rogers, Open champion’,” he said. “Think about it. There’s hardly a week or a month goes by when I’m not reminded of it in some fashion. I refused to let it drive me mad.”
Baker-Finch took it past the brink. By 1997, six years on from his Birkdale brilliance, the Australian was rolled up into a ball, sobbing at the Open The scene was the floor of the locker room at Royal Troon and Baker-Finch had just shot a first-round 92. “That was the absolute worst feeling I’ve ever known,” Baker-Finch said, “Walking up the 18th at the Open about to shoot 92. That made the shot at St Andrews feel like chicken feed.”
That “shot” had caused so many jaws to hit hallowed turf two years before at St Andrews. On the first tee in the company of Arnold Palmer, Baker-Finch hooked his drive across two fairways out of bounds. Caddies who had worked on the Old Course agreed they had never seen anybody do it before – not even amateurs.
“I actually had dreamed of doing exactly that,” Baker-Finch revealed. “Before it ever happened, I dreamed I hit it out of bounds with Arnie watching at St Andrews on the first hole at the Open. That’s when it got scary – when my nightmares started playing out right in front of me.”
It was a whole series of repeats. That year, Baker-Finch missed the cut in all 24 tournaments he played. On average he failed to break 80 once every four rounds and all year only broke par twice. Baker Finch went from teacher to teacher to fix himself, but instead simply exacerbated the faults. “Ian only needed to take one pill but instead he swallowed the whole bottle,” was how coach David Leadbetter summed it up. Baker-Finch moved into the TV analysts chair in 1998 and has remained there ever since.
That is Duval’s primary role nowadays after his own dramatic tumble. At least the Floridian could point to back injuries for a nosedive from world No 3 to No 293 in 12 months. Yet there was undoubtedly more to it as he alluded in one of the game’s most revealing quotes.
“When you work so hard and have had so many near misses and then win, and you didn’t play that well, it’s like, ‘Are you kidding? Are you really gonna do this to me?’ It’s not like I played bad, but of the tournaments I won, that’s the one I played the worst in.”
Duval was referring to the 2001 Open at Lytham. All his hard work through a difficult childhood for a feeling of unfulfillment? He could not arrest the descent. He was 527th in the rankings by the end of 2004, 802nd, by the end of 2008, 1150th by the end of 2012. There were definite hints of a resurrection, most notably when tying for second at the 2009 US Open. But he was on the inexorable road to becoming a talking head on the Golf Channel. Duval, now aged 49th, spoke excitedly a few weeks ago about playing here. He then pulled out on Sunday.
Which brings us to Clarke. The Ulsterman is in this field and with two wins on the US Seniors Tour in the last seven months is not without his chance of emulating Phil Mickelson’s win for the aged at the USPGA in May. Yet Clarke is 52 and it says plenty about his struggles after achieving his own lifetime objective that he is now only feeling confident in his game.
“In my infinite stupidity or wisdom or however you want to put it, in the aftermath of Sandwich, 2011, I ripped up the swing that won me the Open,” Clarke said. “Foolish. That’s just me. The search for perfection drives me. I know it’s unattainable, but to this day, I’m still busting my b— on the range searching. I’m certainly not coming back as a ceremonial golfer this year, just to wave at the crowds. I’m playing pretty decent. I’m not saying I will win it, but I’m also not saying I can’t.”
And if he does not, it means that the last three players who won The Open in the year ending in “1” never won on one of the main tours again. And in the last 30 years, only Zach Johnson has won the Open and gone on such a brutally barren run afterwards. Eerie, indeed.