First Round UpdateSteve Lewton used home-course advantage at Woburn to get to the top of the leaderboard in the first round of Final Qualifying for the The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale. Lewton, 34, a Woburn member since he was eight years old, was alongside fellow Englishman Toby Tree and American amateur Dylan Wu after four-under-par 68s over the Marquess’ Course.
Another local favourite, Ian Poulter, was two strokes behind at the halfway stage with a 70 and was followed by a large gallery. Poulter is bidding to return to Royal Birkdale where he was the runner-up to Padraig Harrington in 2008.
Heroic efforts from the greenkeeping staff at Gailes Links kept play going as as torrential rain threatened to flood the course. Julian Suri, a 26-year-old American who leads the Challenge Tour's Road to Oman points list, led the way with a two-under-par 69 helped by a chip-in at the seventh hole. “I need to change my socks as they are soaking,” he said. “This is the first time I've played links golf, having not experienced it before a practice round on Sunday.”
Maarten Lafeber, the 42-year-old Dutchman, was one behind with Marc Warren, the three-time European Tour winner, who qualified at the same venue in 2014, on level-par 71.
Austin Connelly, a 20-year-old dual citizen of Canada and the United States, led at Royal Cinque Ports at Deal on 68 despite only seeing ten holes of the course in practice. Connelly drove down from the Scottish Hydro Challenge Tour event on Monday and did not arrive in Kent in time to play a full round. He did not drop a shot, however, and birdied two holes, the third and fifth, that he had not previously played before, adding another birdie at the 12th.
Connelly, who has two top-ten finishes in his rookie season on the European Tour, led by one stroke from Robert Dinwiddie, Lee Corfield, Guy Woodman and amateur Harry Hall. Matthew Southgate, who won the same qualifier a year ago, 2016 Amateur Champion Scott Gregory and Raymond Russell, who finished fourth at The Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998, were all among those on level-par 71.
Nick McCarthy from Moortown in Leeds and Jamie Elson from Kenilworth shared the lead on six-under-par 66 at the halfway stage at Hillside, one ahead of Woodhall Spa's Dave Coupland, with Manchester-based Yorkshireman Adam Hodkinson on 68.
European Tour player Tom Lewis, from Welwyn Garden City, was also on 68, helped by a hole-in-one with an eight-iron at the 174-yard seventh. He also birdied the eighth and tenth holes and posted 15 pars.
England’s Rhys Nevin-Wharton and Laurie Canter set the early pace at Notts (Hollinwell). The pair both opened with five-under-par rounds of 67 to claim a one-shot lead over Italian amateur Stefano Mazzoli, Switzerland’s Raphael De Sousa and Stanislav Matus from the Czech Republic.