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Adam Scott leads the Open Golf championship after the first round with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in close pursuit

Updated: Thursday, 19 Jul 2012 20:41

Adam Scott hits a shot on the 13th hole during his fine opening round The day could have been a lot better for Rory McIlroy only for problems he encountered on 15
Adam Scott hits a shot on the 13th hole during his fine opening round The day could have been a lot better for Rory McIlroy only for problems he encountered on 15

Australian Adam Scott is the first round leader of the Open Golf Championship, with plenty of big names well in the hunt after an eventful day at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

Scott posted a 64 for a six under finish and is one clear of Zach Johnson, Nicolas Colsaerts and 1999 champion Paul Lawrie.

A quintet of major winners lie on three under, namely Rory Mcilroy, Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods. Padraig Harrington finished the day with a level par 70, while defending champion Darren Clarke hit a disastrous 76.

The first round leader was not going to let a final hole bogey spoil his day at Lytham - certainly not when he was told it matched the lowest round ever on the famous Lancashire links in its 11 stagings of the championship.

Scott, with Tiger Woods' former caddie Steve Williams on his bag, said: "I'm very pleased with the start - obviously.

"My goal starting the week was to play today like it was Sunday and there was no tomorrow. I did a good job of that."

With the rain-softened course begging to be taken apart in the calm conditions the former European Tour regular, currently ranked 13th in the world, was the one to take the most advantage.

When he had five birdies in six holes from the long 11th he was seven under and on the par 70 lay-out one more birdie would have made him the first player in major history to shoot 62.

Pulling his final drive into the rough and failing to salvage his four, however, meant he did not even become the 25th player to sign for a 63.

"I know there's never been a 62," Scott stated.

"When I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee I did a look at the leaderboard and realised it was a par 70.

"I also probably then realised that I wasn't going to be the guy to shoot 62 - it's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind.

"But making a bogey here or there is fine - making doubles and triples is what really hurts.

"It was just like a nice walk in the park today and I'm sure there's going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days.

"But I'm confident. My ball-striking is good and I think I can get it around no matter what the conditions are."

If he was to triumph Scott would be the 10th successive first-time winner in the majors - but there is, as he is fully aware, a long way to go.

Tiger Woods, chasing his fourth Claret Jug and 15th major, birdied four of the first seven holes, but played the rest in one over and there were others who ended the day closer to Scott.

Paul Lawrie, reinvigorated as a golfer in his forties, opened up the possibility of a second victory 13 years after his first with a 65 which equalled his lowest Open score.

That was matched by 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson - winner of the John Deere Classic last Sunday - and by big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who missed last year's event following a scooter crash at the start of the week and who was at Lytham in 1996 as a 13-year-old Junior Open competitor.

Among those alongside Woods are four more major winners, namely Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy - and that despite a double bogey on the 15th for the latter after his drive hit a spectator on the head, went 20 yards right and finished out of bounds by a few inches.

"He could have headed it the other way," he joked before adding: "The most important thing was that he was ok.

"I didn't realise there was out of bounds over there. I was shocked when I was told, but it's just one of those things and I thought I did well to keep my composure."

He drove the green on the 336-yard next, two-putted and also birdied the last.

World number one Luke Donald was under par as well before dropping his only stroke of the day on the last for a 70, the same as two-time winner Padraig Harrington, but world number three Lee Westwood managed only a 73 and defending champion Darren Clarke could do no better than 76.

At 62, Tom Watson continues to do amazing things. Three years after being one putt away from capturing a record sixth title in the event - he would have been the oldest major champion by 11 years - he shot 71.