On an afternoon where the wind was blowing at Royal St George’s, two men proved it was still possible to shoot an impressive score.
France’s Benjamin Hebert and American Webb Simpson plotted their way around the course and carded opening round 66s to sit on four-under, inside the top five overnight and only two strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen.
With most of the low scores coming from the groups that played in the morning’s more benign conditions, the fact that both men are right in the hunt is testament to their persistence, class and calmness under pressure.
Hebert’s card was as clean as they come with two birdies on the front nine, two on the back nine and no bogies to set him up to potentially better his best major performance of T41 at The Open in 2019.
“I'm feeling great for sure,” smiled Hebert after his day one performance. “It's probably one of the best rounds I've had this year, so I was really enjoying the day.
“It was pretty hard. A lot of wind, some tricky pins but I managed the course pretty well and I'm happy.
“It was much windier in the afternoon than this morning. We know that. My driving, tee shots and stuff worked pretty well. Also the putting. No dropped shots at the moment, so it's cool.
“To have a good first round is always a good start for a tournament. But links golf courses are always hard. Sometimes you can't really manage things, so you just have to keep the ball in play, especially on the fairway.”
WEBB ‘THRILLED TO DEATH’ WITH POETIC SCORE
Simpson has more experience than Hebert’s three major appearances, having won the US Open back in 2012.
The 35-year-old kept a cool head as he made five birdies and just one bogey, including an impressive stint on the back nine where he gained shots on the 12th, 14th and 16th.
There was a satisfying poetry to his round, as a decade on from his Open debut, on the same course, he shot the same opening score – a four-under 66.
The 2011 Open ended with him in a tie for 16th and Simpson couldn’t hide his delight at the start he’s made on a course he loves.
“Today was a great day,” he beamed. “I felt like a day when the wind is gusting and blowing this much, it's hard to make all your four-to-seven-footers for par, and I did that.
“I also capitalised on the shorter holes and it feels nice shooting the same score as I did in 2011, my first time over here at The Open.
“I really enjoy this golf course and I feel comfortable on it. Even though it played difficult today, I still enjoy the challenge of it. It certainly was challenging, so I’m thrilled to death with four-under.
“Seeing the leaderboard, there were definitely more good scores this morning, so that does feel good.”