There was little to suggest on an indifferent opening day that England’s 20-year wait for an Open champion will come to an end this week.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood may occupy two of the top three places in the world but they remain a long way from breaking their major duck.
Nick Faldo at the 1992 Open at Muirfield was the last Englishman to lift the Claret Jug.
And after an opening round played primarily in surprisingly benign conditions, unheralded home players James Morrison, Matthew Baldwin and Lee Slattery were the only notables to break par.
Morrison fired a two-under-par 68 while Slattery sits on one under alongside Southport’s Baldwin, who has Sheffield professional Jonathan Smart on his bag.
Yorkshire’s two challengers, Simon Dyson and Richard Finch, did not fare well.
Dyson – who was ninth at Royal St George’s last year – posted a two-over-par 72 while Finch is two shots further back after a 74.
Hull’s Finch, 35, can feel rightly aggrieved that his 6.30am tee-time, which would have seen him play in the best of the conditions, was shifted to 1.10pm, when the weather drew in off the Irish Sea.
He triple-bogeyed the third and dropped a shot on the fourth before parring his way in.
Malton’s Dyson, 34, had two birdies but also threw in a double bogey on the eighth that left him chasing.
Donald, the world No 1, at least shot a level-par round of 70 in the worsening conditions yesterday afternoon, to remain in the hunt.
Westwood, who missed the cut last year despite only trailing the halfway leaders by seven shots, went to bed last night nine shots adrift of Adam Scott after a ragged 73.
The Worksop professional looked to be in fine fettle after registering birdies at the first two holes but he went backwards with a double bogey on the sixth and could not arrest the slide.
He even had to play out of one fairway bunker left-handed, such was the height of the steep face he had driven against.
“Can’t remember the last time I had to play a left-handed shot, never mind out of the bunker,” said Westwood in his post-round inquest.
It was his swing overall that troubled him.
“I’ve been working on it (swing) for three or four weeks now since the US Open.
“I didn’t feel like I hit it that great there. Just sort of got away with a lot.
“It’s just one of those things. You can’t have great form all the time.
“It happened in France. I had a destructive shot, and I made double bogeys and a few bogeys in space of a few holes, and that’s what happens when you’re on tight golf courses.
“If you can’t pick a point and shape it off of it, as Bubba (Watson) did all day, and eliminate one side of the golf course, you’re going to struggle.”
Of his fast start that raised hope among the early crowds, Westwood said: “You’re going to make a few birdies out there.
“Just happened to be the first two holes. And sooner or later you’ll get found out.”
Three shots higher up the leaderboard, Donald – whose long search for a maiden major title is equally well-publicised – left the course more satisfied with his day’s work.
Donald said: “It was one of those days where I felt like I played pretty solid. I hit a lot of good drives, some pretty solid irons, hit a lot of greens. But I didn’t get a lot out of it on the greens. Still it’s hopefully a round I can build on. It’s an improvement from obviously the last major.
“And I’m looking forward to hopefully going out in the morning and getting some good conditions and making a few birdies.
“The afternoon guys got it a little bit tougher. The wind certainly picked up.
“We had a little bit of rain, it wasn’t heavy, but it was annoying.
“The wind died the last couple of holes, but it was certainly a little bit tougher. I saw a few shots from the morning round, and it looked very, very calm.
“Hopefully that’s the same (today) for the morning guys and the afternoon guys.”
Ian Poulter is in a big group at one over while Paul Casey got to the turn in three under but came home in 41 blows to sign for a 72.
Ross Fisher is also two over while Justin Rose had a torrid time playing alongside Tiger Woods, posting a 74.