Adam Scott carded a sparkling six under par 64 to lead the field by a single shot heading into the second round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The smooth-swinging Australian shaved one shot off the existing Open Championship first round scoring record at Lytham but despite his sterling efforts will still be nervously looking over his shoulder at a chasing pack containing many of the leader figures in the game of golf.
Scott, who celebrated his 32nd birthday earlier this week, goes into the second round with a single shot advantage over the resurgent 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson and the big-hitting Belgian, Nicolas Colsaerts, all of whom returned five under par rounds of 65.
One shot behind is American Brandt Snedeker, winner of this year’s Farmers Insurance Open, who lipped out on the last for a 65 but who nevertheless will be pleased with his performance having missed the cut on his three previous Open appearances.
Tiger Woods, chasing his 15th Major victory but his first since 2008, was tied sixth on three under par 67 alongside the 2011 US Open champion Rory McIlroy, compatriot Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, 2002 Open champion Ernie Els, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson, veteran American Steve Stricker, Swede Peter Hanson and 4-time Japan PA Tour winner Toshinori Muto while the group on two under par 68 comprised recent Irish Open winner Jamie Donaldson, England’s James Morrison, South African duo Thomas Aitken and Jbe Kruger, Denmark’s Anders Hansen, little-known Americans Scott Pinckney and Justin Hicks plus 25 year-old Indian Anirban Lahiri who is touted as one of the rising stars of the Asian circuit.
At the other end of the leaderboard, one of the tournament favourites, Lee Westwood, could only manage a three over par 73, the same total as Phil Mickelson, with the Englishman looking no closer to landing his first Major despite collecting seven top-3 finishes in 54 Major appearances to date. “I will need to play a lot better tomorrow”, said the disappointed Westwood. “I won’t make up any shots playing like that. “I’m going to have a cup of tea and then go out on the range.”
It was a dismal day for defending champion, Darren Clarke, who is now in danger of missing the cut after returning a six over par 76. The popular Northern Irishman has been struggling for form all season and his travails continued at Lytham with an untidy round in which his sole birdie came on the newly-extended 387-yard par-4 10th hole.
“I don’t think you could publish my thoughts right now,” he said. “I had a lovely tee shot to the 1st but, from there, it just got worse. I played poorly and I putted worse. It was very disappointing because at practice I hit it really, really well. But what can you do, I tried my best on every shot, but unfortunately it wasn’t there today.
“Basically, I’m disgusted with myself.”
David Duval, the American who won the title the last time The Open was staged at Lytham, fared only marginally better. He is also languishing well down the field after a four over par 74 which put him alongside Justin Rose among others.
Five-time Open champion, Tom Watson, the oldest man in the field at 62, carded an excellent one over par 72 which for a while looked like being better before he dropped shots at two out of the last three holes. Watson was playing alongside the young Japanese superstar, Ryo Ishikawa, at 20 this year’s youngest competitor. He could only manage a 74. World No. 1, Luke Donald starts the second round in the middle of the pack on level par 70.