Date: July 17, 2009
Author: PA Sport

Senden, Goggin off to flyers

Miguel Angel Jimenez equalled the lowest first round in Open Championship history with a six-under-par 64 as Australian pair John Senden and Mathew Goggin also made excellent starts to the 138th Open Championship. Senden and Goggin are among a group of five players tied for fifth place at four-under. A week ago Senden was seventh reserve for the event and it was only on arriving from Texas on Tuesday that Jeev Milkha Singh&aposs side muscle injury let him in. But all the talk around Turnberry on Thursday centred around one man – Tom Watson. Two months short of his 60th birthday the five-time Open champion made a dream start to what he insists is not simply a trip down memory lane this week. After his superb 65 Watson, set to be the oldest player ever to lead a major until Jimenez two-putted the long 17th and then made a 60-footer for another birdie on the two holes, declared: “I feel that I&aposm playing well enough to win. I feel inspired playing here.” The oldest man in the 156-strong field says he has never seen anything more stunning in golf than Tiger Woods winning the 2000 US Open by 15 shots. But if he does go on to equal Harry Vardon&aposs record six victories on Sunday it will surely take the place of that. Greg Norman coming close to the Claret Jug at 53 last year has nothing on this. “It would be amazing,” said Watson, who underwent hip replacement surgery last October and at the Masters in April – his last major round – collapsed to an 83. That was on the beast that is now Augusta National, though. This was round a Turnberry course that could not have been more docile. Even though he agreed &aposshe was defenceless&apos, nothing should detract from what Watson achieved. Woods, after all, managed only a one-over-par 71 and Norman slumped to a 77. Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, began his bid for the first Open hat-trick since Peter Thomson in 1956 with a 69 – a big step in the right direction after five successive missed cuts on the European and American tours. Norman was back on the links where he won in 1986, but Watson&aposs famous “Duel in the Sun” with Jack Nicklaus is now 32 years ago. He finished with back-to-back 65s that week and had another to be the halfway leader the last time the Open was staged there 15 years ago. With the 2003 British Senior Open win over the lay-out as well nobody knows it better and he noted: “There are some certain shots out here that the kids are unfamiliar with.” “Playing the practice rounds I felt very good about the way I was hitting the ball.” “And because links golf is not played very much the older guys have an advantage. We kind of get a feel for it and that feel is worth its weight in gold.” Just prior to the championship Watson had received a &aposgood luck&apos text from Nicklaus&aposs wife Barbara and he stated: “There&aposs something slightly spiritual about today – and the serenity of it was pretty neat.” Playing partner Sergio Garcia, who shot a level par 70, called Watson&aposs display &aposawesome&apos and needless to say 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, the third member of the group and the youngest-ever British amateur champion, was blown away by it too. “I wish I had his putting stroke,” said Watson. He knows that, as in 1994 when he fell back to 11th, it is the club most likely to let him down. Not in the opening round, though. After an eight-footer went in on the first he holed from 20 feet at the third, 12 on the 10th and then eight again on the 12th and 17th. Watson&aposs 65 was matched by 2003 champion Ben Curtis and right at the end of the day by Japan&aposs Kenichi Kuboya, who finished sensationally – birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie – for an inward 30. Curtis, 396th in the world six years ago when he became the first debutant to take the title since Watson at Carnoustie in 1975, now stands 27th in the rankings. His four birdies in the last six holes made dinner taste better too. Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, David Howell and Graeme McDowell had hopes of figuring high on the leaderboard after flying starts, but all four finished with 68s, alongside Aussie Terry Pilkadaris. Robert Allenby had an even-par round as did Kiwis Josh Geary and David Smail. Adam Scott, Richard Green, Stuart Appleby and New Zealand&aposs Mark Brown are all at one-over.