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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

British Open: Mark O'Meara admits his day was 'toast' after first shot

  • 1998 Open winner hit the opening shot straight out of bounds as wind and heavy rain made conditions testing for the early starters
  • The 60-year-old American went on to make a quadruple-bogey eight on his way to an 11-over-par 81
  • 'At one point I felt like I was going to shoot 90 out there.'
Mark O'Meara reacts after he tees off the first during Round 1 of The Open Championship 2017 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport. Press Association
Mark O'Meara reacts after he tees off the first during Round 1 of The Open Championship 2017 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport. Press Association

Former champion Mark O'Meara admitted his day was "toast" after just one shot as his final Open Championship appearance got off to a nightmare start at Royal Birkdale.

O'Meara, who won the Masters in 1998 and lifted the Claret Jug at Birkdale three months later, hit the opening shot at 6.35am straight out of bounds as wind and heavy rain made conditions testing for the early starters.

The 60-year-old American went on to make a quadruple-bogey eight on his way to an 11-over-par 81, but was far from alone in finding the 448-yard par four a daunting prospect.

One player in each of the first three groups hit a tee shot out of bounds, with amateur Maverick McNealy, John Deere Classic winner Bryson de Chambeau and South Korea's KT Kim all carding triple bogeys.

The first eight groups were a combined 23 over par for the opening hole and it took until match nine for Sweden's Alex Noren to record the first birdie.

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O'Meara, who was asked by tournament organisers the R&A if he would be happy to hit the opening shot, said: "I just got off to such a poor start and my hand slipped off the club.

"When you're nine-over par through seven holes it's very disappointing, but it's not the end of the world. I realise kind of where I'm at in my life. But you still play for your pride and certainly I'm disappointed that I didn't do better.

"For the R&A to give me that privilege of the first tee shot shows the respect they have for their Open champions, the respect to know that this was going to be my last Open Championship.

"I would have thought I would've been more nervous, but I was not pleased when I hit that shot. I don't think anybody would be. My name is on my golf bag, I've won the Open Championship, I'm in the Hall of Fame.

"When you hit one straight right off the first tee out of bounds, it would be like standing on the first tee on the Ballybunion and hitting the graveyard [which is 40 yards away]. My day was toast after that first tee shot. But I still had to play.

"At one point I felt like I was going to shoot 90 out there. I shot 81, so be it. It's not like I haven't shot 81 in my life."

England's Chris Wood was playing alongside O'Meara and with the final member of the group, Ryan Moore, taking six, Wood's par four briefly gave him a two-shot lead.

Wood, who finished fifth as an amateur at Birkdale in 2008, had huge sympathy for O'Meara, adding: "It's tough because it's going to be a talking point. It doesn't deserve to be brought to light like that.

"It's a tough tee shot at the best of times. But wind off the left, raining, half past six in the morning makes it even harder.

"I dare not say anything and he's one of the nicest blokes I've ever met."