Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez set a blistering early pace on Thursday as the 142nd British Open got underway at Muirfield.
The 49-year-old, who missed the first four months of the year after breaking his leg while skiing in December, took advantage of perfect early morning playing conditions to post a three-under 68 and take the early clubhouse lead.
Jimenez went out in five under 31 and was well on track to become the first player in the history of golf to break 63 in a major tournament. But Muirfield's tougher back nine was an alltogether different prospect and Jimenez, bogeyed 12 and 16 to settle for a 68.
Also in the clubhouse early and under par was 2004 winner Todd Hamilton of the United States, who had a 69, and Oliver Fisher of England, who had a 70 playing in the lead group. Rory McIlroy's quest to reproduce the supreme form he showed late last year continued as he struggled early on. Playing with a new pear-shaped Nike driver, the 24-year-old Ulsterman was two over after six holes before he bagged his first birdie of the day at the par-three seventh to reach the turn in 37.
McIlroy's playing partner, four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, had birdies at the second and third but a bogey at the eighth saw him go out in 35. Newly-crowned U.S. Open champion Justin Rose also had a poor start going out in two over 38 and heading back in with three straight pars.
Tournament favourite Tiger Woods had a mid-afternoon tee-off time in the company of Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen.AFP