Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri carded a 5-over 76 on the opening day, leaving him with a mountain to climb in his bid for a weekend appearance at the 147th Open Championships in Carnoustie. The Carnoustie Golf Links, which was baked on a warm morning, penalised visits to the fairway bunkers and did not make putting easy either. India’s other challengers Shubhankar Sharma had just teed off and parred the first hole while playing with Sergio Garcia and Bryson De Chambeau. He will finish around midnight Indian Standard Time.
Americans, who have won the last five Majors, and 10 of the last 14, dominated the leaderboard. Kevin Kisner led the field with a 5-under 66 which included a colourful stretch of bogey-eagle-par-birdie from fifth and then he had a hat-trick of birdies from 13th to 15th and he survived the famous Carnoustie bite on the 16-18th hole to shoot 66. The 34-year-old Kisner has two PGA Tour wins and more famously lost 7&6 to Bubba Watson in a one-sided WGC match play final in March.
Erik Van Rooyen of South Africa, who qualified for the Open by finishing second behind Shubhankar Sharma at Joburg Open, was flawless for 17 holes before dropping a shot on 18th for 4-under 67. Lahiri, putting on a brave smile, said, “It was not the day I was hoping for. I didn’t get off to a good start and after 2-3 holes in, I started tightening up and had a ‘birdie free’ round. That’s not the phrase I want to be associated with, but that’s what it was.”
He elaborated, “I missed a lot of shots to the right and that’s not what I do usually. I missed a lot of opportunity early on and didn’t take advantage of the two par-5s and I found too many fairway bunkers.” In terms of stats, he found only 20 per cent of the fairways, hit only 50 per cent greens in regulation and needed as many as 31 putts. His bogeys came on fourth, ninth and 16th and he double bogeyed the 10th and there were no birdies.
“I did not hit many greens in the middle part of the round. I had a chance on the first though. I found too many bunkers and realistically, I did not put myself inside 10 feet enough, but I have been making those 15-18 footers, so I should have. “I got my speeds on the green a little wrong; left a couple in the jaw and a couple lipped out. So, I need to work on the speed and tempo. Still 5-over is not where I should be but I still feel I can make a bunch of birdies tomorrow.”
Lahiri admitted to not having had a good sleep for 2-3 nights here in Carnoustie and the unease led to a niggle in the neck. Yet, he said, “Funnily I felt rested when I came in the morning, but I have not slept well before that. Now I will get some sleep and a lie in tomorrow as my tee off time is later.”
Another American Tony Finau showed there were a lot of birdies to be had, eight in total, but he also dropped four bogeys in his 67. Another South African Zander Lombard was 4-under through 15, while Brandon Stone, who shot 60 on Sunday enroute to winning the Scottish Open and making it to the Open, carded 68.
Australian Marc Leishman was an aberration on a leaderboard that had loads of Americans and South Africans, and he was 3-under through front nine after being 4-under at one stage. Local man Matthew Southgate, who is a member at Carnoustie and 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, shot 69 each as did Korean Sung Kang.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth was 3-under through 14 holes, before dropping four shots, including a double on 15th and bogeys on 16th and 18th on the treacherous closing stretch.
Masters Champion Patrick Reed shot 75 and US Open champion Brooks Koepka was one-under through two holes.