Manley times run to perfection to take clubhouse lead at Birkdale
Stuart Manley saved his best until last to set the early clubhouse lead today in the first round of The Open at Royal Birkdale.
The 38-year-old Welshman, making his debut in the Championship, had an eagle three at the par five 17th and a birdie at the last to complete a two-under-par round of 68.
Still recovering from a bout of flu from the beginning of the week, Manley admitted he had been too excited to sleep and was full of nerves as he stood on the 1st tee.
“I was standing there shaking,” he admitted. “I was amazed I made contact to be honest. To see the ball staying in bounds was a relief. I scraped a five and then plotted my way around for the next few holes. I gradually grew a bit more comfortable and was delighted to finish the way I did.
“I hit a great drive down 17 and a lovely five-iron approach that was all over the pin before it kicked right and rolled into a bunker. I got a poor lie but it was one of those I knew would feed all the way to the hole as long as I got it out, which it did.”
Manley qualified to play in The Open after finishing in a tie for second place at the Joburg Open in February, but it would be fair to say that his season has since stalled. Coming into The Open he had missed six halfway cuts in succession on the European Tour and hopes this week will be a turning point.
“I always knew I had the game,” he said. “I’ve had my coach with me all week and that’s helped.”
The former Walker Cup player is nothing if not honest. “The swing I put on the 1st tee was horrendous,” he said, explaining that he had no rhythm after practising for an hour in the rain. “But I managed to get it around and at the 15th I said to my caddie ‘I’ve got something here now’. And then I played the last few holes great.”