Nightmare start to the Open for Mark O'Meara

Former champion Mark O'Meara had a nightmare start with a quadruple-bogey eight as he got the 146th Open Championship under way at Royal Birkdale in rainy and breezy conditions.

The 60-year-old, who won the second major of his career when the Open was staged at Birkdale in 1998, teed off at 6:35am alongside fellow American Ryan Moore and England's Chris Wood.

Players had enjoyed dry and sunny conditions on the Southport links until a thunderstorm blew in late Wednesday afternoon and forced the abandonment of practice.

Light rain greeted the players on the first tee on Thursday morning and O'Meara sliced his drive over the fence and out of bounds to the right of the fairway and then pulled his second attempt off the tee into a left-side bunker which eventually added up to an eight.

Wood, who finished fifth at Birkdale in 2008 and won the silver medal as leading amateur, made par with Moore taking six.

Birkdale lays claim to the toughest opening hole on the rota and that was backed up by the performance off the early starters, with the first 24 players playing the 448-yarder in 23 over par.

But with the rain giving way to overcast skies and the wind easing, it took just under 90 minutes after play began for the first players to get under par.

England's Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, holed a birdie putt at the second to get to one under and he was later joined by Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai, after four straight pars were followed by a birdie at the fifth, and South Korea's Byeong Hun An.

With the weather expected to improve as the day progressed it could play into the hands of an out-of-form Rory McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman, an Open winner at Royal Liverpool three years ago, has had his fair share of good and bad draws at The Open when it comes to the conditions and insists he has come to terms with the vagaries of the British weather in the year's third major.

"I've been on the wrong side and I've been on the right side," he said in his pre-tournament press conference.

"But I think with the Open Championship you're playing in them enough that you're going to get your good draws and bad draws.

"It's a part of it that you have to accept and I've learned to accept it over the years."

PA


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