ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Barclay Brown had a tee time at the top of the morning, and he finished his opening round at the British Open near the top of the leaderboard.
The 21-year-old amateur from Sheffield, England, shot a 4-under 68 Thursday, making him the clubhouse leader when he sank his par putt on the 18th.
“I was unbelievably nervous at the start,” said Brown, who goes to Stanford University and is playing at the tournament for the first time. “And then once I got through the first couple of holes, yeah, it was nice to kind of calm down a little bit and hit some good shots and just get into it.”
Brown teed off at 6:46 a.m. in the second group of players on the Old Course. He made par on the first six holes and then birdied both seven and nine. He started out the back nine with a bogey, but added three more birdies coming in, including on the Road Hole at No. 17.
“When I saw the draw, I was saying it’s not too bad because I’ll probably be awake at 4 a.m. anyway playing the first day of the Open,” Brown said. “So might as well be out playing golf rather than sitting twiddling my thumbs.”
He ended the day in a tie for fifth place, four strokes behind Cameron Young.
Brown, who was wearing a whimsical fisherman’s hat during his round under the clouds, comes from the same club as U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, the Hallamshire Golf Club in Sheffield.
Fitzpatrick won the silver medal as the low amateur in 2013 at Muirfield.
At the last British Open at St. Andrews, in 2015, amateur Paul Dunne shared the lead through 54 holes. He ended up in a tie for 30th place after a final-round 78, while Jordan Niebrugge was the low amateur in a tie for sixth.
“Obviously (I) want to win the silver medal,” Brown said. “And then beyond that just put four good rounds together.”
Ernie Els gladly would have signed for a 70 considering the circumstances. The Big Easy is 52. He was coming in from the Senior Players Championship in Ohio and didn’t really get his feet under him until it was time to start the British Open.
If not for one hole, one swing.
Els was at 4 under for the round when he sent his tee shot on the par-4 17th into the Old Course Hotel. He had to hit another one off the 17th and eventually made double bogey.
“Just that one hole burning me at the moment,” Els said. “I played good. I putted nice. I just had that one … tee shot on 17. Anyway, that’s my day.”
This is an anniversary week of sorts for the South African. Els won his first claret jug 20 years ago at Muirfield. He won the jug again 10 years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes when Adam Scott lost a four-shot lead over the last four holes.
Els doesn’t have a great history at the Old Course. He was runner-up in 2000, albeit eight shots behind Tiger Woods. But he loves St. Andrews and the variety it offers. He says he felt comfortable all day, even with the few mistakes he made.
“Just that one shot is going to keep me burning until tomorrow,” he said.
Padraig Harrington finished a long day at the British Open with knee pain, a headache and a couple of pizzas.
Maybe a shot at a third claret jug, too.
“I’m shattered,” said the 50-year-old Harrington after closing with a birdie for a 3-under 69, which left the 2007 and 2008 champion in a tie for 13th place.
The low part of a round lasting about six hours came at the 16th hole, which he bogeyed. By then, his knee was hurting and he “couldn’t see a way home to the clubhouse.”
Harrington said he has a leg injury that manifests itself in his knee.
“I’m not concerned with it,” he said, hopeful of playing the weekend at the home of golf.
Paul Lawrie added a modern touch to the Royal & Ancient game when he hit the opening tee shot at St. Andrews in the British Open.
The first golf ball struck in 1873 on the Old Course was a gutta-percha.
Lawrie used a yellow golf ball. How times have changed.
“How nice is that?” said Lawrie, the Open champion at Carnoustie in 1999. “I’m 53, not 23, so my eyesight’s not the best. I just see it better when it’s flying. Also when I’m in the rough as much as I am, it stands out. Even the marshals can see it. I quite like it actually. I never thought I’d play with a yellow ball, but I actually quite like it.”
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