Damp conditions greet Open starters

Damp, overcast conditions greeted the early starters in the opening round of the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale today.

Damp, overcast conditions greeted the early starters in the opening round of the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale today.

Heavy rain had stopped by the time Australian Craig Parry struck the first shot at 6.30am, with England’s Peter Appleyard set to be the last man to start his round almost 10 hours later.

Defending champion Padraig Harrington was scheduled to begin his first round at 7.58am, although he rated his chances of teeing off at 75% and only 50-50 to get through the championship due to the wrist injury he suffered on Saturday.

American Heath Slocum would replace Harrington if he becomes the first Open champion not to defend his title since Ben Hogan in 1954.

Hogan only ever played once in The Open, winning at Carnoustie – as Harrington did last year – and then not taking part at Birkdale 12 months later.

Playing just two groups ahead of Harrington was England’s Justin Rose, fourth as a 17-year-old amateur here 10 years ago but back now as world number nine and European number one in 2007.

Former champion Ernie Els was also among the early starters but last year’s runner-up, Sergio Garcia, had to wait until 2.31pm to start his campaign for a first major title.

Parry and Dyson both parred the opening hole but the final member of the group, American Lucas Glover, dropped a shot and then ran up a double-bogey six on the second to highlight the potential for some high scores.

Australian Peter Fowler then took a double-bogey six on the first and France’s Jean-Baptiste Gonnet was soon the only player on the course not over par thanks to a par at the first.

Meanwhile Harrington was on the driving range as the rain came down again, the Dubliner hitting balls to test out his wrist and clearly determined to try to defend his title.

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