Youth keeps up with experience at Open

Bjorn and Lewis were unlikely leaders after day one of the British Open and both had their own unique story to tell.

     Thomas Bjorn put his demons behind him to set the pace with a superb 65 first round [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Tom Lewis, named after one of the British Open's greatest champions, lived up to it on Thursday when the 20-year-old amateur shot a 5-under 65 to share the lead after the opening round.

    The day was even more special because he played alongside the man he was named after: Five-time Open champion Tom Watson.

    "I was more nervous not to embarrass myself in front of him," Lewis said.

    "I just had to smile inside watching him play. I didn't play particularly well myself, but I certainly was impressed by the way he played"

    Namesake Tom Watson

    No worries there.

    Lewis pulled off some Watson-like shots at Royal St. George's, making four straight birdies towards the end before a par-saving tap-in at the 18th left him tied with Thomas Bjorn.

    "He could be my grandson," quipped the 61-year-old Watson, who needed seven more strokes than his namesake to get around the course.

    "I just had to smile inside watching him play. I didn't play particularly well myself, but I certainly was impressed by the way he played."

    Lewis' late-afternoon charge was definitely impressive, but it didn't totally overshadow an early morning round by Bjorn, who was playing at this course on the English seaside for the first time since his meltdown in the 2003 Open.

    That Sunday, he threw away a two-stroke lead in the final three holes - who can forget him needing three swings just to escape the bunker at No. 16 - and allowed Ben Curtis to snatch away the Claret Jug with one of the sport's most shocking upsets.

    Two very different players.

    Two hugely compelling stories atop the leaderboard.

    "I'm 40 years old," Bjorn said, "and there might just be a little bit more in me."

    Amateur dramatics

    Long after the Dane had completed his round - he was done by lunchtime - an English amateur half his age surged up the board by taking full advantage of the afternoon calm that had this place ripe for the taking.

    Lewis posted the lowest round ever for an amateur in the British Open, beating the 66 posted by Frank Stranahan in 1950 and matched by Tiger Woods (1996) and Justin Rose (1998).

      Phil Mickelson believes the vast majority of the field could walk away with Claret Jug [GALLO/GETTY] 

    The youngster also became the first amateur to lead a round at a major since 1976, when Mike Reid was up by three strokes heading to the second day of the U.S. Open.

    "We certainly have a new young breed out here, don't we?" Watson marveled.

    "We have a lot of young players playing very good golf."

    Lee Westwood and current number one Luke Donald were both one-over despite having the best of the conditions as the wind dropped to leave a balmy afternoon on the south-east coast, as was tournament favourite and newly-crowned U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy.

    American Phil Mickelson said earlier this week probably 130 of the 156-strong field could come through to win the trophy and, with the last 14 majors having been won by 13 different players - he probably was not exaggerating.

    It is safe to say nobody would have predicted that Bjorn and Lewis would set the pace but it is the nature of golf that anyone can come out of the pack to make a challenge.

    Of the top 25-ranked players on duty, only six broke par on Thursday.

    Of course nothing is decided after one day of golf and anyone on or around par will be reasonably content to still be in the mix.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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