Adam Scott, who reckons he can remember every shot of Greg Norman’s closing 64 to win the Open at Sandwich 19 years ago, now has one of his own to sit alongside it in the record books.
The 31-year-old Australian was not going to let a final-hole bogey spoil his day at Royal Lytham – certainly not when he was told it matched the lowest round on the famous Lancashire links in its 11 stagings of the championship.
Scott, with Tiger Woods’s former caddie Steve Williams on his bag, said: “I’m very pleased with the start, obviously.
“My goal starting the week was to play (yesterday) like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow. I did a good job of that.”
With the rain-softened course begging to be taken apart in the calm conditions the former European Tour regular, currently ranked 13th in the world, was the one to take the most advantage.
When he had five birdies in six holes from the long 11th he was seven under and on the par 70 lay-out one more birdie would have made him the first player in major history to shoot 62.
Pulling his final drive into the rough and failing to salvage his four, however, meant he did not even become the 25th player to sign for a 63.
“I know there’s never been a 62,” Scott stated. “When I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee I did a look at the leaderboard and realised it was a par 70.
“I also probably then realised that I wasn’t going to be the guy to shoot 62 – it’s one of those things that you don’t want to go through your mind.
“But making a bogey here or there is fine; making doubles and triples is what really hurts.
“It was just like a nice walk in the park and I’m sure there’s going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days.
“But I’m confident. My ball-striking is good and I think I can get it around no matter what the conditions are.”
If he was to triumph Scott would be the 10th successive first-time winner in the majors – but there is, as he commented, a long way to go.
Woods, chasing his fourth Claret Jug and 15th major, birdied four of the first seven holes, but played the rest in one over and there were others who ended the day closer to Scott.
The 1999 champion Paul Lawrie, reinvigorated as a golfer in his forties, opened up the possibility of a second victory 13 years after his first with a 65 which equalled his lowest Open score.
That was matched by 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson – winner of the John Deere Classic last Sunday – and by big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who missed last year’s event following a scooter crash at the start of the week and who was at Lytham in 1996 as a 13-year-old Junior Open competitor.
Among those alongside Woods are four more major winners, namely Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy – and that despite a double bogey on the 15th after his drive hit a spectator on the head, went 20 yards right and finished out of bounds by a few inches.
“He could have headed it the other way,” he joked before adding: “The most important thing was that he was okay.
“I didn’t realise there was out of bounds over there. I was shocked when I was told, but it’s just one of those things and I thought I did well to keep my composure.”
He drove the green on the 336-yard next, two-putted and also birdied the last.
Colsaerts produced one of the shots of the day when he holed an eight-iron from almost 200 yards for an eagle two at the second.
“A bit of a treat – it was just a fantastic way to start the round,” said the big-hitter.
“But then I kept hitting very good shots and didn’t really hit any bad ones.
“I was just looking at my targets and trying to stick to my plan.”
Colsaerts, in contention for a Ryder Cup debut in September, hired the scooter in Sandwich last summer because he thought there could be traffic jams.
But he then came off it clipping a kerb and injured his elbow.
After his round yesterday he was asked to speak to reporters and tripped on a step.
He narrowly avoided falling and joked: “That would have been another good story.”
Fifth on his own after a 66 is American Brandt Snedeker, who in practice holed-in-one at the par four 16th. On his return to the hole he had one of four birdies in a flawless round.
Yorkshire’s two hopefuls – Simon Dyson and Richard Finch – will hope to have a better day today after both finishing over par yesterday.
Dyson, from Malton, finished two over on 72, while Hull’s Finch finished the day a fuerther two shots behind.