Friday, July 15, 2011
Sports News

Watson makes an ace, Lewis comes back to reality

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[July 15, 2011]  SANDWICH, England (AP) -- Tom Watson produced some more British Open magic.

The younger Tom looked more like an amateur.

Twenty-year-old Tom Lewis, the first amateur to lead the Open since 1968, bogeyed two of the first six holes Friday to give up the top spot he shared with Thomas Bjorn.

Lewis was named after Watson, the five-time Open champion who still has plenty of game at age 61.

Two years ago, he nearly won the claret jug for a sixth time, losing to Stewart Cink in a playoff after making bogey on the 72nd hole. Watson got off to a slow start in this one, opening with a 72, but he gave everyone a charge at the par-3 sixth hole.

Going with a 4-iron, Watson sent the ball soaring to the green, then watched it bounce one time before dropping into the cup for a hole-in-one.

He threw both arms in the air, high-fived playing partner Henrik Stenson, shook hands with his other partner, Lewis, then took a bow toward the grandstand.

"Wish I could have seen it go in," Watson quipped as he walked toward the hole to retrieve his ball.

His was the second hole-in-one at this Open. Dustin Johnson aced the 16th during the opening round.

While Tom & Tom went in opposite directions, Darren Clarke made the biggest charge up the leaderboard. He rolled in a 90-footer for eagle at the seventh, then birdied three of the next six holes to pull even with Bjorn, who had an afternoon tee time.

Clarke took advantage of perfect conditions for going low. There was barely a cloud in the sky and little wind off the Strait of Dover, the flags hanging limply above the grandstand.

Once the face of golf in Northern Ireland, Clarke has become an afterthought. First it was Graeme McDowell winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Then another countryman, Rory McIlroy, captured the same major at Congressional last month.

The British Open gave Clarke a chance to shine again.

"I enjoy any time I get back on links," the 42-year-old said. "It's the biggest and best tournament in the world -- why wouldn't I enjoy it? It's the only major that's played on the turf the game started on."

Another prominent player dropped out. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen withdrew Friday because of a back injury. He was unlikely to make the cut anyway after opening with a 76.

Also in danger of going home: Ben Curtis, who won the last Open played at Royal St. George's in 2003. He shot 77 in the first round.

Lewis began Day 2 as the first amateur to lead the Open since 1968, the first to pace any major since Mike Reid at the 1976 U.S. Open.

He was realistic about his chances.

"I'll be happy just to make the cut and be leading amateur," Lewis said. "Never mind the top of the leaderboard."

He gave up that spot after an errant drive into a pot bunker at the fourth. Lewis barely got it out, advancing the ball only about 10 yards, before hitting an approach to the edge of the green and two-putting for a bogey.

Two holes later, he surrendered another stroke. After watching Watson celebrate his ace, Lewis hooked his tee shot far left of the green and took another bogey.

Lucas Glover, who began the day one stroke off the lead, twice claimed a share of the top spot before a bogey at No. 10 pushed him back to 4 under. He was tied with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who had an afternoon start time.

As the day went on, the breeze was expected to pick up and make scoring tougher. That could work against players such as McIlroy, the heavy favorite but off to a sluggish start with a 71, and top-ranked Luke Donald, another of those who opened with a 71.

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While Lewis has his whole career in front of him -- he plans to turn pro after the Walker Cup in September -- the other opening-round leader wonders how much longer he can compete at the highest level.

Bjorn had missed the cut in four of five events before he got to Royal St. George's, his game in disarray, his heart heavy after the death of his father.

The 40-year-old Dane put that all aside for one day at least, getting a bit of payback at a course where he threw away a major title eight years ago.

Bjorn had a two-stroke lead with three holes to play at the '03 Open -- "one hand on the trophy," he would say afterward -- but threw it all away at the 16th. He needed three swings to escape a pot bunker, allowing Curtis to steal the claret jug in one of golf's greatest shockers.

On Thursday, Bjorn caught a break at the 16th, a tee shot that appeared headed for the sand taking a fortunate kick toward the flag. Instead of double bogey, he made a birdie.

Through it all, Bjorn insisted that he wasn't looking back.

"That hole owes nobody anything," Bjorn said. "We all know what it's like. A bounce here or there and then it goes either wrong or right."

Bjorn wasn't even in the tournament until Vijay Singh withdrew on Monday, giving the Dane another shot at Royal St. George's. When someone suggested that he might have been better off not playing to avoid memories of his meltdown, Bjorn cut him off.

"A couple of people asked me that question, 'Would you not just want to go home?'" Bjorn said. "This is the Open championship. Where else do you want to be?"

McIlroy, coming off an dominating win in the U.S. Open that made the 22-year-old the centerpiece of this major, rallied from a sloppy start Thursday and had no complaints.

"Anywhere around even par is a good start," McIlroy said.

It didn't feel that way toward the end of the first day.

The morning half of the draw were a combined 223-over par. The afternoon half combined to go only 94 over. There were a dozen rounds in the 60s in the morning, and 23 in the afternoon.

"Looks like the wind gods are having an afternoon tea?" came a tweet from John Daly, who was proud of his 72 in the morning.

The calmer conditions held up Friday morning, but the wind was expected to shift and become more fierce in the afternoon. That figured to help Glover, Clarke and others who got the late-early portion of the tee times.

[Associated Press; By PAUL NEWBERRY]

National Writer Paul Newberry can be reached at

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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