LYTHAM: Adam Scott had a chance at history. He gladly settled for tying a course record.
Scott equalled the lowest British Open score at Royal Lytham & St Annes, taking advantage of prime scoring conditions to rip off eight birdies on the way to a 6-under 64 in the opening round today.
The 31-year-old Australian bounced back from an early bogey with a dazzling display — his drives accurate, his
irons precise, his long putter reliable. When Scott arrived at the 17th hole, his score was at 7 under, putting him in position to tie the record for lowest score in the Open or
any other major (63), or even break the hallowed mark with one more birdie.
Scott settled for par at the 17th, then took a bogey on the final hole after an errant tee shot into the thick rough. Still, he went to the clubhouse having tied the 64 that Tom Lehman shot at Lytham in 1996. "I'm very pleased with the start," said Scott, who had never shot better than 68 in 12 previous Opens. "It's nice just to take advantage of the calm conditions today. It was surprising but very pleasing to go out and play some solid golf."
Tiger Woods spent some time atop the leaderboard, a once-familiar sight at the major championships. He played the first 14 holes at 4-under, finally stumbling after he sprayed his tee shot at the 15th into the thick rough. He needed two whacks to get out and wound up taking bogey.
Still, he finished with a 67 to position himself nicely for a run at his 15th major championship, looking to break a drought in the biggest tournaments that goes back to the 2008 US Open.
He certainly had a swagger in his step and showed plenty of emotion, strolling the grounds like he owned the place, mixed in with some anguished looks every time a shot didn't go exactly where he wanted. He largely played it safe, largely sticking with irons off the tee to avoid the tall, thick rough and devilish bunkers. He just left a few putts short. Showing excellent control off the tee — a must at Royal Lytham — Woods got rolling with a birdie at the opening par-3, rapped in another at the fourth, then grabbed the outright lead with a 20-footer at No 6. He grimaced after each of his first two shots at the par-5 seventh, but was still in good shape, just short of a greenside pot bunker. He deftly chipped right up next to the flag and tapped in for another birdie.
A host of major champions took advantage of a course ripe for the taking. Paul Lawrie, who won a British Open best remembered for Jean Van de Velde's historic meltown on the 72nd hole, opened with a surprising 65. Masters winners Zach Johnson (65) and Bubba Watson (67) were right in the thick of things. So too were US Open champions Ernie Els (67) and Graeme McDowell (67).
Defending Open champion Darren Clarke struggled to a 76. Lee Westwood, the English favourite, got off to a sluggish start with a 73. The last guy to qualify for the tournament, India's Jeev Milkha Singh, made a 25-foot birdie putt at the opening hole but faded a bit down the stretch to finish with an even-par 70.