Drugs talk mars Open start

The 136th Open Championship got under way at Carnoustie today in the shadow of claims from Gary Player that he “knows for a fact” there are players taking drugs.

The 136th Open Championship got under way at Carnoustie today in the shadow of claims from Gary Player that he “knows for a fact” there are players taking drugs.

There are plans for testing to be introduced on tours around the world next season and South African great Player, in Carnoustie this week to see the championship return to the course on which he won in 1968, thinks it cannot come soon enough.

Asked if he would be surprised by any positive findings, the 71-year-old said: “No, it would not surprise me because I know – I know for a fact – that there are golfers, whether it’s HGH (human growth hormone), creatine or steroids, that are doing it.

“And the greatest thing that the governing bodies can do is have tests at random.”

American Chris DiMarco, second to Tiger Woods at Hoylake last year, echoed Player’s calls for testing to be introduced as soon as possible.

“Golf is a game of integrity and if they are doing drugs they are cheating,” said the 38-year-old. “Cheating is the wrong way to do it. I’m all for drug testing – let’s go ahead and do it.

“If everyone has nothing to hide let’s do it. I don’t know anyone that does [drugs] and I don’t know anyone that would. It would surprise me if there were two per cent of guys out here doing drugs.”

The R&A conducted testing at last year’s world amateur team championships in South Africa. There were no positive findings.

Tiger Woods was among the morning starters as he bids for a third straight Open title, the world number one playing alongside England’s Justin Rose and 1999 champion Paul Lawrie.

Woods has played just once since finishing second to Angel Cabrera in the US Open at Oakmont, but the 31-year-old remains a firm favourite to win his 13th major title and edge closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.

Colin Montgomerie, who missed the cut last year but was second to Woods at St Andrews in 2005, was just two groups behind Woods and definitely the star attraction in a three-ball with Toshi Izawa and Stewart Cink.

American Joe Durant had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 6.30am, with Kent’s Benn Barham the last man to start his opening round almost 10 hours later.

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