Carnoustie lived up to its fearsome reputation on the first day of the 128th Open Golf Championship as players battled against knee-high rough and gusting winds and at the end of it all only one player finished on level par. Australian Rodney Pampling was one of early starters but at the end of a day when scores soared the 30-year-old’s round of 71 was good enough to take the first round lead.
The Queenslander, playing in his first Open Championship, dropped two shots in the last four holes after taking adavantage of the calmer early conditions and as he settled down for a haircut, the remainder of the field struggled to keep up.
“It was nice to be in the clubhouse with a 71,” said Pampling. “I know how tough it is out there. I knew it was a good round -–it is such a difficult course – but I had my share of lucky bounces.”
Germany’s Bernhard Langer and American Scott Dunlap finished a shot off the pace while among the group on 73 are former Open champion Justin Leonard and Qatar Masters champion Paul Lawrie.
But it was a day when Carnoustie, back on the Open rota after 24 years, reigned supreme. Langer said: “It’s definitely a challenge. You just have to try to make the best of it.”
Colin Montgomerie, winner of the Standard Life Loch Lomond last week, returned a 74. "I'm delighted with that after dropping two shots at the eighth to go to three over and then finishing on three over. It's very difficult out there.
"It doesn't matter what the par is - it's the chap who finishes ahead of the rest that counts."
Ernie Els reached the turn in three over par but managed to hold his score together thanks to three birdies on the back nine to finish with a 74.
“It was awfully tough out there,” said the former US Open champion. “We all knew when the wind started it was going to be tough. I got off to a good start and then made a terrible six at the third. But you have got to take the good with the bad. I’ll take four 74’s – there are no easy holes.”
Andrew Coltart moved into a promising position at two under par but dropped five shots in the last four holes for a round of 74 to lie in the group that included Jesper Parnevik and one of the favorites to win the Claret Jug, Tiger Woods. Woods dropped two shots in the last three holes but is still poised to mount a challenge for the title he covets most.
Darren Clarke recovered from an outward half of 41, five over par, with a level par back nine to stay among the leaders but Spanish teenage sensation Sergio Garcia slumped to a round of 89, 18 over. The defending champion Mark O’Meara fared little better with a round of 83.