Four days after winning a tournament to secure his place in the Open Championship, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh today continued where he left off in the first round at Royal Lytham.
Singh won the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart on Sunday – beating Italy’s Francesco Molinari in a play-off – to qualify for only his second Open appearance, five years after missing the cut at Carnoustie.
The 40-year-old was among the early starters as play got under way in overcast but calm conditions on the Lancashire coast, making the perfect start with a birdie on the first, the only par-three opening hole among the nine courses on the Open rota.
He saved par on the second and repeated the trick on the third by chipping in after tangling with the heavy rough off the tee, before then holing from 15ft for another birdie on the fourth.
At two under par, Singh led by one from Thongchai Jaidee, a former Thai paratrooper who had birdied the second from six feet, with those two the only players in red figures after almost two hours of play.
England’s Barry Lane had hit the opening shot at 6:30am, while playing partner James Driscoll made the first birdie from 40ft on the opening hole.
However, both players soon experienced the difficulties the course can present by running up double bogeys on the third, where Lane needed two attempts to escape from one of Lytham’s 206 bunkers.
Things soon got even worse for Driscoll, who took eight on the par-five seventh, a hole identified by Lee Westwood as likely to provide a rare birdie opportunity on the front nine.
Westwood, seeking a first major title at the 58th attempt, was due out at 9:20am alongside Masters champion Bubba Watson and Japan’s Yoshinori Fujimoto, while 14-time major champion Tiger Woods was out at 9:42am with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
The last group out were not due to start until 4:11pm, while Darren Clarke began the defence of his title at 9:09am alongside Ernie Els and Zach Johnson.
Singh almost chipped in again for another birdie on the fifth while one female spectator was being treated for a possible broken leg after slipping on a bank by the side of the green.
An ambulance could be heard approaching on the access road to the side of the course as Singh teed off on the sixth, where he made par before dropping his first shot of the day on the seventh.
One under par was still good enough for a share of the lead however, with 1999 champion Paul Lawrie having picked up a birdie on the third by chipping in from just off the green.
Clarke wasted a good birdie chance of his own after hitting his tee shot on the first to 12ft, while his drive on the second found heavy rough to the right of the fairway from where he could only advance the ball around 20 yards.