Phil Mickelson equalled the lowest ever round in a major as he began his British Open with a stunning 63 at Royal Troon on Thursday to go clear at the top of the leaderboard.
The 2013 Open champion came within inches of becoming the first ever player to shoot 62 in a major championship when his birdie putt at the last lipped out, leaving him to settle for an eight-under-par round instead.
It was, though, only the ninth time a player has scored 63 at The Open and the first since Rory McIlroy, who did it in 2010 at St Andrews, which is a par-72.
Left-hander Mickelson’s effort was also a new record on the par-71 course, beating the previous best of 64 set by Greg Norman in 1989 and Tiger Woods in 1997.
“It was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played and yet I want to shed a tear right now,” said the 46-year-old American. To have that putt lip out, that’s going to sting for a while.”
He will take plenty of solace from the fact his round put him firmly in control in the clubhouse with a three-shot lead over nearest challengers Patrick Reed and Martin Kaymer.
On a day of glorious sunshine on Scotland’s west coast, Mickelson’s round was flawless, with no dropped shots and eight birdies.
That included at the par-five 16th, when he produced a superb shot out of a greenside bunker before holing for birdie, and then a two at the short 17th, where he said his four-iron from the tee was his “best shot of the day.”
At a venue where the last six winners have been American, most recently Todd Hamilton in 2004, Mickelson must now manage the expectations on him ahead of the second round, when much tougher conditions, with rain and wind, are in store.
Reed, the 25-year-old Texan, had earlier laid down a marker with an impressive opening round 66 that for several hours gave him the clubhouse advantage.
The highlight of his day was when he holed his approach shot for an eagle two at the par-four third. He also had five birdies and two bogeys.
The breeze blowing in from the Firth of Clyde was hardly nasty but it was significant enough to make life particularly difficult on the back nine for most players.
“It doesn’t matter if the wind is blowing or not, that back nine is tough,” said Reed.
German Kaymer, meanwhile, had five birdies and no dropped shots in his excellent 66.
Behind him are a host of players at four-under, spearheaded by the reigning champion Zach Johnson, who rather marred his day by bogeying the last two holes.
Also at four-under are the American quartet of Justin Thomas, Steve Stricker, Billy Horschel and Tony Finau, Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and England’s Andy Sullivan.
UNDERWHELMING ‘BIG FOUR’
As for the ‘Big Four’, it was a slightly underwhelming day.
World number one Jason Day admitted he had “a lot of work to do” after a two-over 73, while Jordan Spieth and US Open champion Dustin Johnson both had even-par 71s.
Rory McIlroy, the 2014 Open winner who missed last year’s championship due to injury, was rather more upbeat after his two-under round of 69.
“It was good. I think if I would’ve stepped on the first tee and someone would have given me a 69, I probably would have taken it,” McIlroy said after his round.
Elsewhere, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen bagged the first hole-in-one of the week when his tee shot at the par-three 14th landed at the front of the green and dropped in.
The 2010 Open winner has recent form of such exploits having also managed a stunning ace at the Masters in Augusta in April.
“I thought it was just going to be right of it, and next thing I just saw it up against the flag and obviously the crowd going crazy,” he said later.
Oosthuizen finished level par for the day after shooting a 71.
Other players found the going rather tougher, with 2001 Open champion David Duval of the United States shooting an 11-over-par round of 82.
He had reached the turn level par, but promptly bogeyed the 10th and then had a nine at the par-four 11th, which is only separated from the Glasgow to Ayr railway line by a four-foot high stone wall. Things never got better after that.
Scottish veteran Sandy Lyle, the 1985 Open champion, fared even worse, shooting an 85.
Brian Johnson may forget to keep his visiting card handy, but he always ensures there are plenty of Dh20 notes in his wallet. That, he says, remains his greatest calling card as one of the finest architects in the business.
The note features the iconic clubhouse of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, a building designed by Johnson, managing partner of Godwin Austen Johnson architecture firm. Till date, apart from a special commemorative note issued by the Bank of Scotland which featured the R&A clubhouse in St Andrews, no other golf course in the world has been accorded this honour.
Now, Johnson’s design has received further accolade – Dubai Creek clubhouse has come eighth in Golf.com’s list of 18 Most Iconic Clubhouses in the World. It features alongside such establishments as the clubhouse at the Old Course in St Andrews and Augusta National Golf Club, and host venues of major championships.
More importantly, at 23-year-old, Dubai Creek is youngest of the 18 golf courses listed. Christopher May, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Golf, commented: “It is a great honour for Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club to be included in such a prestigious list of world-renowned golf clubs.
“There are probably 30,000 golf clubhouses in the world, so to be selected as one 18 is quite something. Also, being the only club from the Middle East, really puts golf in Dubai on the international map.”
As good as it looked, May said the more amazing thing about the building was the vision with which it was built, and the time when the construction started.
“The shape of the building is unique and obviously echoes the maritime history and traditions of Dubai. We have had so many guests who have compared it to the Opera House in Sydney. It is a remarkable structure,” said May.
“There is one thing about Dubai Creek that many people forget – it’s importance for the city. When it was made in 1993, the region had just gone through the Gulf War.
Even though the UAE was peaceful, foreigners were averse to coming to the whole region. For the Rulers to want to built something like this, it really was a statement of intent from the Government of Dubai.
“The fact that it was put on the Dh20 banknote at that time, just shows how significant the building is for Dubai.”
While the form continues to be awe-inspiring, May says functionality of the clubhouse is perhaps the best in the whole region.
“The clubhouse, and its flow, is actually one of the best in the region. For a start, it is built on a raised platform, so it looks down on the golf course and gives wonderful views of the golf course and the creek from important areas like the restaurants,” said May.
“But from a flow perspective, basically all the back-of-house functions, like bag storage, kitchen and cart storage, are all underground, which works very well for us. Most essential services and the logistics involved are hidden from the guests. The public areas in the clubhouse work very well again. They are very spacious.”
“I have spoken to Brian many times about the clubhouse and he has told me he would not change anything if he had to build it again. From an operational point of view, it works very well. The only change we have done in more than 20 years is make the gym and the function area a little bit bigger. It is a testament to his design that this clubhouse was build fit-to-purpose from day one and is still working so well.”
GOLF.COM LIST OF 18 ICONIC CLUBHOUSES:
1. The R&A Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland
2. Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta
3. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton
4. Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck
5. Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire, England
6. Medinah Country Club, Medinah
7. Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England
8. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Dubai
9. Sunningdale Golf Club, Berkshire, England
10. Ridgewood Country Club, Paramus
11. Sleepy Hollow Country Club, Scarborough
12. Formby Golf Club, Formby, England
13. Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont
14. Indian Creek Country Club, Florida
15. Congressional Country Club, Maryland
16. East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta
17. Trump Nat’l Golf Club Bedminster, New Jersey
18. Royal Lytham & St Annes, Lancashire, England
Talk about a hazard! A giant alligator surprised these golfers when it emerged from a lake and walked across the fairway.
The reptile then made its way to the lake beside the third hole at Buffalo Creek Golf Club.
Have you ever had a similar experience on a sports field?
If so, Tweet us if so using #360fans.