TROON, United Kingdom: All eyes were on golf’s so-called ‘Big Four’ as the 145th British Open started at Royal Troon on Scotland’s west coast on Thursday, with Dustin Johnson in the best shape.
Beautiful early morning sunshine greeted the first players to tee off, with local hero Colin Montgomerie hitting the first shot of the championship at 6:35 am local time (0535 GMT) in front of enthusiastic galleries.
Now 53 and seen as one of the best players never to win a major, Montgomerie came through qualifying for this year’s Open.
Playing in a group with Luke Donald and Australia’s Marc Leishman, Montgomerie did not start well, however, finding a greenside bunker and eventually carding a double-bogey six.
Conditions are expected to remain fine throughout Thursday, with wetter and windier conditions forecast to come in from the Firth of Clyde on Friday and Saturday.
Laid-back American Johnson comes into the championship fresh from finally winning a major at the US Open last month and he shares the status of favourite with world number one Jason Day of Australia.
“The game’s in good form, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in it, so we’ll see what happens,” said Johnson, who gets his first round underway at 2pm local time (1300 GMT).
By then, the rest of the ‘Big Four’—Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy—could all be finishing their opening rounds as they each tee off before 10am.
Day, who just failed to make the three-man play-off at the end of last year’s Open, is in a group with Masters champion Danny Willett and American star Rickie Fowler.
“This is pretty special,” admitted Day, 28, after arriving in Troon, 35 miles southwest of Glasgow, at the start of the week.
“The greats have all held the trophy, the Claret Jug. To be able to hold that once in my career, it would be very pleasing and satisfying.”