July 17, 2009
Woods fires 71 on first day, as playing partners Westwood and Ishikawa shoot 68. Veteran Watson leads with 65
TURNBERRY: Imagine Tiger Woods' frustration yesterday during the British Open's first round.
He made just three birdies and far more mistakes for a one-over par 71 in surprisingly calm conditions, matching the score of 16-year-old Italian amateur Matteo Manassero, the youngest player at Turnberry.
He suffered the embarrassment of being outdone by playing partners Lee Westwood and Japan's 17-year-old Open rookie Ryo Ishikawa, who both trumped the world No. 1 by three strokes.
And he was also totally upstaged by the oldest man in the field.
Tom Watson, 60 in September and grinning from ear to ear, shot a dazzling 65 to grab the clubhouse lead alongside 2003 winner Ben Curtis.
'Not bad for an almost 60-year-old. The body's a little bit old, but the enthusiasm out there was very similar,' said Watson, the five-time Open champion giving the gallery the chance to relive the magic from his epic win here in 1977 - the Duel in the Sun with Jack Nickalus.
He has, however, made waves at a Major championship in his advancing years, shooting a 65 in the first round of the 2003 United States Open. He became the inspirational story of that tournament, however, mostly because his caddie, Bruce Edwards, was carrying his bag while battling ALS, often referred to as 'Lou Gehrig's Disease'.
Edwards died a year later.
This time, he showed his mastery of links golf, a style that has always suited him with his ability to play balls low and bounce them onto the green and close to the hole.
On his rare errant shots yesterday, Watson slashed his way out of the flowing grass in the rough with confidence. He started strong, with birdies on the first and third holes and played a bogey-free round.
Turnberry counts on the weather to provide much of its difficulty, with wind reliably howling off the ocean. But this Open started amid lovely, almost placid weather, leaving the first round vulnerable to low scores as the wind stayed still.
'The wind will pick up tomorrow. She'll have some teeth. I'm looking forward to that,' said Watson, who drew a rousing standing ovation when he walked up the 18th fairway.
'It's an incredible feat,' said Steve Stricker, one of several golfers to shoot a 66. 'To still be playing this kind of golf when you're that old, is great.'
When his round ended, Woods, 33, headed back to the range to work on his swing, which looked downright ugly with his right hand flying off the club and many of his shots going right.
His first signs of frustrating emerged at No. 3, when he took an angry swipe and mumbled something under his breath. By the time the day was done, he had four bogeys, the last of which came at No. 16 after finding water.
It was the first time since 2003 that he failed to break par in the opening round of the Open. But that did not stop him from praising Ishikawa.
'His golf was pretty impressive, wasn't it?', said Woods.
The shy youngster let his clubs do the talking in a round full of poise and class, starting brightly with a birdie at the second, following a stunning approach shot.
'I just hope that I can make the cut,' the Bashful Prince, as he is known in Japan, said.