Lytham St. Annes, England • Adam Scott had a chance at history.
He gladly settled for tying a course record.
Scott equaled the lowest British Open score at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, taking advantage of prime scoring conditions to rip off eight birdies on the way to a 6-under 64 in the opening round Thursday.
The 31-year-old Australian bounced back from an early bogey with a dazzling display — his drives accurate, his irons precise, his long putter reliable. When Scott arrived at the 17th hole, his score was at 7 under, putting him in position to tie the record for lowest score in the Open or any other major (63), or even break the hallowed mark with one more birdie.
Scott settled for par at the 17th, then took a bogey on the final hole after an errant tee shot into the thick rough. Still, he went to the clubhouse having tied the 64 that Tom Lehman shot at Lytham in 1996.
“I’m very pleased with the start,” said Scott, who had never shot better than 68 in 12 previous Opens. “It’s nice just to take advantage of the calm conditions today. It was surprising but very pleasing to go out and play some solid golf. It’s what I haven’t done in the first rounds of the majors this year, and that was my goal here, starting the week, was to play today like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow.
“I did a good job of that, and now I’ve got my work cut out for me the next couple of days to keep myself in a similar kind of position.”
Tiger Woods spent some time atop the leaderboard, a once-familiar sight at the major championships. He played the first 14 holes at 4 under, finally stumbling after he sprayed his tee shot at the 15th into the thick rough. He needed two whacks to get out and wound up taking bogey.
Still, he finished with a 67 to position himself nicely for a run at his 15th major championship, looking to break a drought in the biggest tournaments that goes back to the 2008 U.S. Open. He certainly had a swagger in his step and showed plenty of emotion, strolling the grounds like he owned the place, mixed in with some anguished looks every time a shot didn’t go exactly where he wanted. He largely played it safe, largely sticking with irons off the tee to avoid the tall, thick rough and devilish bunkers.
He just left a few putts short.
“I felt like I played well,” Wood said. “I really hit it well. I was very close to making a few more putts. Every ball was starting right on my line. I was very pleased with that. I’ve just got to hit the putts a little harder.”
The conditions couldn’t have been any better for going low.
An early morning sprinkle gave way to dry weather, the sun making an appearance through the low-hanging clouds. There was hardly any breeze blowing in off the nearby Irish Sea, the flags atop the 18th grandstand barely rippling.
Showing excellent control off the tee — a must at Royal Lytham — Woods got rolling with a birdie at the opening par-3, rapped in another at the fourth, then grabbed the outright lead with a 20-footer at No. 6. He grimaced after each of his first two shots at the par-5 seventh, but was still in good shape, just short of a greenside pot bunker. He deftly chipped right up next to the flag and tapped in for another birdie.
The wind was expected to pick up in the afternoon and make things tougher for that side of the draw, which included world No. 1 Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
Adam Scott -6
Paul Lawrie -5
Zach Johnson -5
Nicolas Colsaerts -5
Tiger Woods -3