Thomas Bjorn wasn’t even meant to be part of the Open Championship field, having failed to qualify for the season’s third major. But at the 11th hour, the Dane – sixth reserve for the event – was introduced to the field after the withdrawal of Fijian Vijay Singh left an open spot in the field.
The spot should have gone to Brendan Jones, but with that player electing to turn down the opening as his wife was expecting, the next call was to the Danish former Ryder Cup player.
And Bjorn wasn’t about to just make up numbers as he stormed to an early 5-under par 65 to set the target for the afternoon players. The former Ryder Cup player famously dropped a three-shot lead with four holes to play when the Open was last held at Royal St. Georges in 2003, but seemed in determined mood to try to erase that lasting memory.
Bjorn’s round of 65, which included seven birdies and two bogeys was later matched by amateur Tom Lewis – the lowest ever round by an amateur in the event’s 140 year history – as he became the first amateur since Michael Bonallack in 1968 at Carnoustie to share the Open Championship lead. Like Bjorn, Lewis’ round consisted of seven birdies and two bogeys.
The duo lead by one shot over Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiminez, and United States pair Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson with a group of 12 players – which includes Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer – a further two shots back on 2-under par.
50 of the 150-strong field managed to put in a score of par-or-better, with Steve Stricker and Ian Poulter among a group of 18 players to close on 1-under par, while tipster pick Sergio Garcia dropped two shots late on to finish level par for the day and join a group of 15 players in a share of 36th.
Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen opened the defence of the Claret Jug with a 2-over 72, while US Open champion Rory McIlroy and current world number one Luke Donald both opened with 1-over par rounds of 71, as did Lee Westwood and US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.