Padraig Harrington defied wind, rain and his injured wrist to make a highly creditable start to the defence of his Open title at Royal Birkdale today.
While former champion Sandy Lyle quit after 10 holes of his round and American Rich Beem after nine of his, Harrington battled to a round of 74, four over par, on a miserable morning.
That was three shots off the clubhouse target set by playing partner Retief Goosen, the South African one of just six players to actually get under par so far.
Harrington had rated his chances of playing at 75% and was just 50-50 to complete the championship after picking up a wrist injury during practice at home on Saturday.
But the Dubliner said: “I’m happy to have played. I battled well through the first 16 holes and thought the hard work was done. With the last two holes being downwind it was a poor finish to end with two bogeys.
“I didn’t have any problems with the wrist on the course but felt a few twinges of pain warming up. But I’ve got another day to rest and I’m quite happy. I’ve not played myself out of the tournament.”
Goosen was two over par after five holes but holed a 70ft chip shot for par on the sixth and then picked up four birdies in his last 10 holes, despite revealing he had only managed one practice round after arriving at the course yesterday.
“I’ve played in conditions like this before in the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews. It was tough, especially on a course like this, a real battle out there,” said the 39-year-old.
“I made a couple of good par saves, chipped in for par on the sixth after a double bogey and that really kept the round together.”
Lyle was 11 over par when he called it quits, the 50-year-old, playing in his 33rd Open, explaining:
“It’s probably my shortest Open ever. I got off to a miserable start and around the third or fourth hit a couple of shots which rattled my fingers and went a little numb. I could not swing the golf club in the end and was doing myself more harm than good so decided to call it a day.”
Former USPGA winner Beem had gone to the turn in 46, 12 over par, before retiring, while Welsh Open winner Scott Strange was propping up the field on 14 over after an 84.
Yorkshire’s Simon Dyson was in the first group out at 6:30am and recorded a nine on the 10th in his 82, complaining: “I can’t believe they didn’t put the tees forward. I think they’ll come under fire to be honest.
“I don’t think I’ve played a par four that I couldn’t reach with my best drive and my best three-wood and there’s three of them here.”
The weather was claiming some high profile casualties with world number two Phil Mickelson losing a ball on the sixth to take a triple bogey there, the left-hander seven over after 15 holes.
Former champion Ernie Els was faring even worse, the 2002 winner nine over with one to play.
Lee Westwood, one of the pre-tournament favourites after finishing third in the US Open, was five over with two to play while Justin Rose – fourth here as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998 – played the back nine in level par to be four over.
Colin Montgomerie was also going well on three over after 14 holes.