x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

British Open: Singh starts strong on opening day at Royal Lytham

Former champion Paul Lawrie sets the pace at the Open Championship, but Jeev Milkha Singh and Tiger Woods are still in the hunt.

Jeev Milkha Singh reacts to the crowd after putting on the second at Royal Lytham
Jeev Milkha Singh reacts to the crowd after putting on the second at Royal Lytham

LANCASHIRE, UK // Former champion Paul Lawrie set the early pace as the Open Championship got under way - but two familiar names were also quickly among the birdies at Royal Lytham.

Lawrie, who has made the halfway cut just five times in 12 Open appearances since his victory in 1999, chipped in twice in the first five holes as the early starters sought to take advantage of the calm conditions on the Lancashire coast.

The 43-year-old Scot also added a birdie in more conventional fashion to move to three under par, one shot ahead of Lee Westwood and India's Jeev Milkha Singh, who had gone to the turn in 32 just four days after winning the Scottish Open to secure his place at Lytham.

Westwood had made the perfect start with a birdie from just three feet on the first, the only opening par-three on the Open rota, before adding another from 18ft on the second.

And 14-time major winner Tiger Woods also picked up a shot on the first, the former world number one holing from 14ft to join South African Ernie Els on one under par.

However, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke was having an unhappy start to the defence of his title, leaving a birdie putt short on the first and dropping shots at the next two holes to lie two over par.

England's Barry Lane had struck the opening shot of the championship at 6:30am, while playing partner James Driscoll carded the first birdie before experiencing the perils which Lytham can hold, slumping to nine over par with two double bogeys and a triple bogey in a front nine of 43.

Meanwhile, veteran American Russ Cochran had withdrawn through injury before the start of play, allowing US Open runner-up Michael Thompson into the field and promoting Italy's Matteo Manassero to first reserve.

Since winning his third Claret Jug at Hoylake in 2006, Woods has either been an also-ran or a non-runner as the Open comes to its climax.

At Carnoustie he never recovered from hitting the opening shot of his second round out of bounds. Padraig Harrington won there and, while he was retaining his title at Birkdale, Woods was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. At Turnberry he missed the cut while at St Andrews - post sex scandal - he was 13 behind. He was also absent through injury at Sandwich last year.

However, after four tournament wins in the last eight months, Woods has climbed back from 58th in the world to fourth and could be number one again with a victory on Sunday night.

And after a birdie from 20ft on the fourth was followed by Lawrie dropping a shot on the eighth, Woods was into a share for the lead on two under alongside Lawrie and Australian Adam Scott.

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