An unknown leader and a past champ past his prime in the hunt mark an interesting round.
By BOB HARIG
Published July 18, 2003
Two-time British Open champ Greg Norman, a surprise on the leaderboard, plays from the rough on the seventh hole.
A whack, some flack, another whack, then a hack
It was an inauspicious start for Tiger Woods on No. 1, as his tee shot to begin the tournament landed in the deep hay.
He needed to call out course officials, and after being led around aimlessly by nearly two dozen people, they still couldn't locate the ball.
His fourth shot was a hack that pulled out a bale with his club head. Eventually, he made triple-bogey 7.
SANDWICH, England - Almost on cue, the sun ducked behind the clouds, the temperature dropped, a bit of rain fell and the wind came whipping in off the English Channel.
And the British Open lived up to its reputation as one nasty, unforgiving major championship.
Hey, at least everybody broke 100.
Thursday's first round of the 132nd Open Championship at Royal St. George's may not have produced triple digits, but it offered a little bit of everything else.
On one hole, a ball was lost in the rough. On another, two were struck at the same time. The defending champion shot 78 while the guy who won here 10 years ago and is playing just his third tournament of the year shot 69. And a former rugby star playing in his first British Open took the lead.
Hennie Otto, 27, teed off in the first group at 6:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. EDT), made three birdies on the back nine and finished with a rather routine 3-under-par 68 - a score that stood up through 51 more groups and 91/2 hours of tee times. It was the second-highest score to lead after the first round on the PGA Tour this year.
Otto was followed by Greg Norman, 48, who won his second Open Championship at Royal St. George's in 1993, and Davis Love, a three-time winner this year on the PGA Tour. They shot 69. S.K. Ho and Fredrik Jacobson shot 70.
Those were the only five players to break par. There were 26 players in the 80s, with the potential for three more who didn't finish the first round.
After playing in warm, sunny, balmy conditions during the practice rounds, the players saw a different Royal St. George's.
"It was a very, very difficult day," Norman said. "The golf course was there, baring its teeth all the way around. I'm glad it rained a little bit overnight and softened it up. If we played with the firmness we had on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the wind we had today. ... I don't know what the scores would be."
It was a day for the absurd and the bizarre at a place Jack Nicklaus once described as "the only course where you can hit it straight down the middle and lose your ball."
A few incidents were close, especially at the par-4, 442-yard first hole. Jerry Kelly's opening tee shot found the left rough. Ten strokes later, he carded 11, and after 86, he withdrew with a hand injury.
For the world's No. 1 player, the first was no fun, either. Tiger Woods' opening tee shot found the right rough, and despite the efforts of some two dozen people, nobody could find the ball. Woods got on a cart, and a fan quipped, "Has he decided to head home early?"
No, he was going back to the tee, where after a penalty, he hit another ball into the rough and started the tournament with triple-bogey 7. "It's frustrating when the forecaddies tell us they saw where the ball went in and heard it go in but we just couldn't find it," Woods said.
Under the circumstances, Woods came out okay. He played the final 17 holes in 1 under and shot 73. As the day progressed and the wind picked up, so did the scores. He ended up five back.
"It was a tough round of golf to try and always fight back," said Woods, who also had three straight bogeys on the back nine but followed with two birdies. "But I kept my patience and I really grinded my way around this golf course."
Woods can take comfort in knowing Norman bounced back from an opening-hole double bogey here in 1993 to win.
And there were plenty of other oddities. Shigeki Maruyama, playing his third shot from the rough on the fourth hole, struck his ball and two came flying out. Presumably, it wasn't one left from J.H. Taylor's victory when the Open was first played here in 1894. Maybe it was.
Thomas Bjorn was penalized two strokes when he slammed his club in the sand at 17. Bjorn was just one shot off the lead at the time, but took quadruple-bogey 8. Phil Mickelson was penalized when his ball moved at address on the 15th green. He shot 74.
Then there was defending champion Ernie Els. He had no birdies and shot 78.
"The only thing we didn't get (during the round) was rain, thank God," Els said. "I said before the tournament that if we get tough conditions on this golf course, we are going to have a serious problem."
He wasn't the only player to have trouble. Mickelson at one point was tied for the lead at 3 under but finished six back. Former champion David Duval shot 83. One of last year's playoff losers, Steve Elkington, had 86.
"This is what the golf course does to you," Norman said. "It keeps you off balance all day long."