The Open: Skies finally clear as 141st Open tees off

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HEAVY overnight rain stopped just before the 141st Open teed off at Royal Lytham this morning.

It meant there was no need for preferred lies to be in operation at the Lancashire links, something that had been talked about in the build-up due to the course already being so soft.

Englishman Barry Lane, the Scottish Seniors’ champion, got the event underway at 6.30am.

He had originally been due to tee off 11 minutes earlier in a two-ball with American James Driscoll.

But the draw was shuffled slightly following the late withdrawal of Swedish Ryder Cup player Robert Karlsson.

It meant Lane and Driscoll were joined in the first group by South African Garth Mulroy, who was due to be in the day’s second match with Richard Finch.

The bonus for Finch was that he got a long lie, the Englishman teeing off instead at 1.10pm with Mark Wilson and Branden Grace.

As has become custom at the event, Lane was introduced on the first tee by official starter Ivor Robson shortly after a heavy shower.

The 52-year-old qualifier safely found the green – Lytham is the only course on the Open rota that starts with a par-3 – with his opening tee shot, as did his two playing partners.

Driscoll delivered the event’s first birdie, wielding his broom-handled putter to good effect as he rolled in a 40-feet putt across the green. In contrast, Lane three-putted to get his tournament off to the worst possible start. And, though the qualifier repaired that damage with a birdie from 12 feet at the next, he then ran up a double-bogey 6 at the third.

Driscoll did likewise then dropped a shot at the fourth to undo his good work at the first.

Even in the first hour of play, it was apparent that the course, which is staging the event for the 11th time, is providing a tough test this week. Birdies were few and far between in the opening handful of 
groups, which also included 1985 champion Sandy 
Lyle.

Playing with two other former winners – Todd Hamilton and Mark Calcavecchia – the popular Scot opened with a brace of pars but then dropped a shot at the third.

Elliot Saltman, the only Lothians player in this year’s field, was due out at 11.10am with English duo Sam Walker and Dale Whitnell. Tomorrow, they are the last group out in the second round, teeing off at 4.11pm.