Despite admitting to some “silly” mistakes, Colin Montgomerie was satisfied with an opening 72, a score that left him five shots off the lead following the first day of The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
Montgomerie, who is this week making his debut in The Senior Open, made nine straight pars to start at a blustery Royal Birkdale, before three dropped shots in succession following the turn pegged the Scotsman back.
A fine birdie at the par four 16th followed, though, meaning the record eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner signed for a two over par total.
“It was difficult out there, it was,” said Montgomerie. “The wind picked up this afternoon, definitely. Any links course with wind is a test, especially this one. But it’s a joy to play and in great condition.
“It's a great golf course; as a driving test there's no better,” he continued. “You have to feed your way through bunkers. Today on the tenth hole, Freddie Couples hit his three wood, Mark O'Meara hit his driver and I hit a five iron.
“There are ways that you feel that you can play the course to its best. It doesn't mean because it's a par four it's always a driver. You've got to think your way around, and that's the beauty of this course: You can take it on with risks, or you can play safe without.
“I was okay out there but they were silly bogeys, really. Ten and 11 should never have been bogeys. They were easy up and downs and I didn't commit to the shots at all and made two bogeys.
“I didn't commit to the shots that I had to commit to out there today, and let's hope we can do better tomorrow.”
Montgomerie famously amassed ten top ten finishes in the four Major Championships during a stellar career, including five runner-up spots, and the 50 year old said The Senior Open evoked similar emotions.
“You stand on the first tee, (starter) Ivor Robson is there and it's the same feelings, the same standards we've at The Open,” he reflected. “I remember playing three Opens here, and emotionally, it’s the same, it's game on, definitely.
“It feels like a Major Championship and that’s super to be able to do at 50 years old. That's why we play golf as a professional; as a footballer, one, I'd be a bit slow; and two, I'd be finished 20 years ago.”
Last year, Fred Couples was eight shots behind following the first round at Turnberry before storming back over the next three days to win, and Montgomerie was also quick to point out a more recent reversal in fortunes that could bode well for his chances.
“I'm two over, that's five behind,” he said. “Remember, not a week ago, Phil Mickelson came from five behind with one round to go and I've got three to do it so I'm in prime position.”