My First Open
Tom Lewis
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Royal St George's 2011
Tom Lewis

“I didn’t really have a target in my head, I was more nervous about making sure I made the first tee shot and not messing up early.”

By his own admission, Tom Lewis’ aim when he started his first round of The 140th Open at Royal St George’s was to not embarrass himself.

Lining up alongside eight-time major winner Tom Watson will have done nothing for his nerves, with the 20-year-old having more reason than most to be awestruck by his illustrious playing partner, as he was named after the great man by his dad.

And as Tom and Tom set off at Sandwich on the Thursday, few would have thought it was the junior of the two who would be returning to the clubhouse as a record breaker later in the day.

With just 65 connections of club to ball, Lewis brushed Tiger Woods and Justin Rose aside, as he eclipsed the two of them with the best-ever score for an amateur at The Open.  

With a number of big names falling by the wayside in treacherous conditions in Kent, Lewis seemed to be playing in a world of his own for 18 holes, with his delicacy on the greens helping him shoot up the leaderboard.

Tom Watson

Eight holes, eight putts, that’s how the Welwyn Garden City man started his Open career, as he produced the sort of performance that his boyhood hero Sir Nick Faldo would have been proud of. 

That paved the way for a front nine score of 32, before four birdies and two bogeys after the turn saw the young talent write his name into the history books, playing some dazzling shots along the way.

He even birdied four holes in a row on the back nine before a par at the last sealed his place at the top of the leaderboard.

Lewis had just shocked the golfing world by posting one of the all-time great rounds, not just at Royal St George’s but at The Open, and even he was struggling to believe it as play came to an end on day one.

"I was just thrilled to be here but to shoot 65 was something I wouldn't have thought," he said. "I was just happy to get the drive off the tee on the 1st. That was all that mattered."

18 holes down, 54 to go. And that’s where the men are separated from the boys on the tour, or the pros from the amateurs, if you like.

A 74 on the Friday saw Lewis drop off the leaderboard as the weekend came into view, but with so many casualties falling all over the place in Sandwich, he was still in with a shout as the Championship reached its halfway point.

After making the cut, the 20-year-old went from being paired with one legend of the game to another, as he swapped Watson’s company for that of Phil Mickelson.

Lefty’s leer seemed to do Lewis’ game no help, as he dropped four shots from the first eight holes on Saturday, with the very same greens that he was hoovering up on Thursday now more like a minefield.

Even off the tee things had taken a turn for the worse, with wayward opening shots sparking a run of three successive bogeys. On the front nine Lewis hit 40 shots before signing for a third round score of 76.

By Sunday, things looked to be tightening up for the race for the Silver Medal – the highest-ranked amateur – but a solid, if not spectacular score of 74 saw him take the spoils, three shots better off than next best Peter Uihlein.

After the highs of Thursday, Lewis was left with a lot to ponder from the three days that followed, with the thought of going pro more prominent than ever.

"I feel like I'm ready in certain areas but playing with Phil Mickelson on Saturday made me feel terrible, really, around the greens,” Lewis said.

“If you're going to play with the best players in the world, you have to chip and putt like they do. So I've just got to keep grinding at that and work on my swing a little bit."

"I'm glad I played with him because I realised that I'm pretty bad around the greens and I need to work on that a lot," said the amateur.

"If I had his short game, I would probably be out there competing at the top. But that's the difference between me and the top boys at this moment in time."

A lesson learned, a record earned. As debuts at The Open go, there can’t be many more memorable.