PLAY like there is no tomorrow, was Adam's Scott's mantra. Treat the first hole like it was the 72nd to win a major. That might yet come to pass after the Australian's vivisection of a supine Lytham. The advice came from his caddie, Steve Williams, he of the Tiger Woods glory years, who passed on the tip from his former master. The result was an opening 64, three better than the pre-tournament favourite and one clear of the field - and that after a bogey at the last.
Scott's score, posted early, prevailed all day. Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts came within a stroke, and at the back end of the day Rory McIlroy lit a firework or two to close on 67 alongside Woods and Graeme McDowell. McIlroy had been moving along serenely when an errant tee shot at the 15th poleaxed a spectator and landed out of bounds beside the same burger van that earlier snared Paul Casey. The reward for the slain was a signed glove, for McIlroy a double-bogey six, which became a big Mac and cries for the Lancastrian comedians on site.
The McIlroy of recent weeks might have been discouraged. Not this version. He promptly drove the green at the 336-yard 16th to set up a birdie, and signed off with another at 18. Today, he was set to have first crack at the course, hoping to present Scott with a deficit to close in the afternoon. Scott stood on the 18th tee needing a 10th birdie to secure golf's magic number, a round of 62, unprecedented in a major championship.
The idea proved too powerful to contain, feeding into a nervy swing and a hooked tee shot into the long stuff. From there a five was the best he could do.
It was a belated victory for a course quieted by record rainfall leading up to the event and the absence of wind on the day. With the forecasters predicting benign conditions at least until Sunday, Lytham is a course with its trousers down. "I was not really expecting it to play like this. It was just like a nice walk in the park today, not what we've experienced in the practise rounds," said Scott.
Successive birdies at the sixth and seventh ignited his round but it was not until the back nine that Scott began to reap the benefit of his attitude shift. "I was playing so well going into the US Open and all of a sudden I was seven over through 15 holes. You can't pick up that many shots in a major. So to really switch on right from the first tee and not just see how it goes for the first few holes. At any given time he can help me, a guy with experience like Steve. We talked about that mindset. He wanted me to go to that first tee today like it was the 72nd hole. That was a good little trigger."
Scott's ascent with his broomhandle putter is an affront to the purist. It is also under review from the authorities, who are concerned at the advantage gained when a club is anchored to the body.
The belief is that the use of the torso as a pivot in the putting action is to be outlawed ahead of the next Olympics, which could spell the end of the body putter as well as the broomhandle. Lawrie inverted Scott's experience with a birdie at the last to lead the British challenge. The 1999 Open champion took a pasting in America for electing not to play the US Open last month on the grounds it would not enhance his Ryder Cup claims. Given a course set-up at Olympic Club that allowed chance too big a hand in determining outcomes, a good decision by Lawrie looked even better yesterday.
Lee Westwood did go to San Francisco and endured an equally frustrating opening on Britain's west coast. A birdie-birdie start could not protect against uncharacteristically wayward iron play, which at the 14th required him to play left handed out of a bunker, and contributed to four bogeys in the closing six holes for a 73. He recovered from the same three-over par total to start the final day at the US Open in the penultimate group. But even his stellar best might not save him here, a point he accepted.
"It was nice to birdie the first two holes, but I don't feel in control of the ball at the moment. And you get found out pretty quickly around an Open Championship golf course," said Westwood, echoing his sentiments of a year ago when he missed the cut.
World No1 Luke Donald, who suffered the same privilege at Royal St George's, is well placed to avoid that fate despite a bogey at the last, which cost him a first sub-70 opening round in a major since 2006.
Southport resident and Liverpool fan Matthew Baldwin likened his Open debut to scoring at Anfield. Baldwin was in the second group out and set his alarm for 4.10am to ensure his readiness. It paid off with a fine 69, secured with a birdie at the last, one of three claimed over the closing five holes. "Whenever a putt dropped a cheer went up from my family and friends," he said. "It was like scoring a goal at Anfield. To be playing in an Open is a dream come true."
TIGER WOODS was wielding the club like a scalpel, dissecting Lytham's fairways with all the delicate precision of a master surgeon. So pronounced was this perfectionist streak that on the tee at the par-five 11th, where he found the short stuff and yet failed to land the ball in the exact spot he intended, he chuckled softly at his own perceived ineptitude.