England’s James Morrison leads a group of 13 Open debutants who are contesting the final two rounds of this weekend’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The 27 year-old old from Chertsey headed the recent European International Final Qualifying event at Sunningdale and he is now in a share of 11th place alongside Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and Steve Alker after opening his debut Open account with rounds of 68 and 70.
Morrison goes into the third round of this year’s Open with a two shot lead over South Africa’s Garth Mulroy, Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen, America’s Ted Potter Jnr, England’s Dale Whitnell, and India’s Anirban Lahiri in the unofficial race for rookie honours.
A total of 32 debutants from all over the world started on Thursday and just over 20 per cent of them are still challenging for the top places with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Japan’s Yoshinori Fujimoto a further one shot behind Morrison on 141 and England’s Matt Baldwin plus America’s Harris English, Justin Hicks and Troy Matteson on 142.
Some of the Open rookies are household names in their own countries. Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship on his Major debut 11 months ago and he is currently tied in 68th place in The Open on three over par 143. That puts him on the same total as another rookie Juvic Pagunsan from the Philippines as well as alongside the likes of Tom Watson and Lee Westwood who were paired together at 8.20 am and drew most of the early morning Saturday crowds.
Morrison used to play cricket in the same England Youth cricket team as the likes of Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan before switching to golf and winning the 2010 Madeira Island Open. He has never quite rising to the heights of that illustrious trio but today plays alongside America’s Steve Stricker with the prospect of challenging for the oldest and most prestigious title in golf.
It represents a remarkable achievement for the Englishman who got down to scratch within a year of taking about golf because he starts the third round with only Ernie Els, Thomas Aitken, Jason Duffner, Graeme McDowell, Matt Kuchar, Paul Lawrie, Thorbjorn Olesen, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and leader Brandt Snedeker in front of him.
An interesting weekend awaits.