The Open 2011 Day One: Tom-Tom find their way around a tricky St.Georges

The first day of the Open has rather unsurprisingly produced some fantastic stories. Again it has become a tale of the young and old at the top of the leader board after round one, and the field is set well for great developments over the next three days.

The Great-Dane leads the way

Leading the way thru eighteen are forty year old Thomas Bjorn and twenty year old amateur Tom Lewis. Scarcely could these players be further apart in their levels of experience, but today they have produced similarly impressive returns on demonstrations of great links play.

Bjorn, who recently lost his father was looking to avenge the ghosts of his past here at Sandwich having thrown away the lead when in position to clinch the title in 2003. Having to fight with such a multitude of emotions would be hard for most, but Bjorn excelled. Add to these varied emotions the fact that he was only a sixth reserve to play the Open this time last week and the story becomes greater still. This somewhat unfamiliar and unusual situation could indeed be the reason behind the seeming ease and lack of pressure present in his first round showing of 65.

Lewis’ story if anything is more incredible. The prospective Walker Cup team member went from unknown amateur to household name in the space of four hours today. He managed to match Bjorn’s round of 65 in his first ever round of British Open golf, quite the feat for a lad who few could claim to have seen in action before this afternoon.

Lewis takes the talk of the 'Young-Guard' even further

Not only did he score extraordinarily well, but he demonstrated an incredible temperament given the circumstances. Having stormed out of the blocks going out in three-under par, he then encountered his first real sticky patch in major golf. A couple of dropped shots after the turn took him back to one-under and it seemed that the wheels may have derailed. Lewis, however, was having none of it.

A four hole birdie streak from hole fourteen took him back to the summit and there he remained. The young amateur even claimed to have been unaware of the streak he was on and where it had placed him in the standings. The focus and calmness of his first round has won him many followers including playing partner and golfing legend Tom Watson.

Lewis said it was an “honour” and “the greatest privilege” to play with the man to whom he owes his first name, and it certainly seemed that way out on the course. Watson, the seasoned campaigner that he is, allowed Lewis his own space to start with but as the round went on and the relationship developed he could be seen strolling the fairways with an arm around the shoulder of the youngster. This is what amateur participation in major events is all about, and it certainly can’t be said that Lewis didn’t deserve his place having torn apart the tricky links course at Rye over his two rounds of qualifying.

G-Mac recovered his round brilliantly

Aside from these headline acts there were performances of note from other members of Europe’s elite. Miguel Angel Jimenez further underlined his status as a crowd favourite with a blemish-free round of 66 whilst former US Open champion Graeme McDowell recovered from a double bogey start to match world number three Martin Kaymer at two-under.

Other European hopes Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, and Lee Westwood went rather under the radar with error-strewn battles round the links course, all carding one-over par rounds of 71.

Bjorn and Lewis lead the way into day two with a few players one back and in hot pursuit. Open debutant Webb Simpson is tied for third alongside Jimenez and former US open winner Lucas Glover. A slender lead makes for a great deal of competition over the forthcoming rounds.

Hard-earned cigar for Miguel after a 66

The first day has offered a range of different wind conditions where players were required to take full advantage when the lulls came. It seems likely that whoever manages these variable conditions the best will come out victorious come Sunday evening and the in contention Martin Kaymer may have played the role of prophet in saying that the winner will be whoever holes the most six-foot putts. The second day is bound to serve up some further surprises and one would hope that the golfing gods keep shining down on the talented Tom Lewis as he seeks to defy his inexperience and remain atop the leader board throughout day two.

Rory looking to secure Major step towards emulating Tiger

With Rory Mcilroy currently destroying the field at Congressional it seems once again that a maiden Major title is well within his grasp. He is furthering his reputation as a major player and looks to be creating a trademark for himself with an unerring ability to consistently go low in the early rounds of golf’s premiere events. Such confidence and extreme scoring has again created a buzz around the young Northern Irishman comparable only to that which surrounded the young Tiger Woods fifteen years ago.

The master and the young pretender

Just as was the case with the young Tiger, Mcilroy is far from the finished article at the age of 22 and still has several areas of his game in need of refinement. This though is the major reason for the impression which Mcilroy is making. His potential is frightening, he is already going in to Majors and shooting unbelievable scores when his game is way short of what it could eventually prove to be. He may not yet be the model of consistency that fellow europeans Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer are, but more than these three appears to be making the greatest splash when it comes to major events in 2011. It is scary how at ease young Mcilroy seems amidst the excitement and anticipation which surrounds these events but in the wake of his final round capitulation at Augusta caution must be taken if Mcilroy is to break his major duck this weekend.

The hideous scenes in the final round at Augusta this year were painful to watch as Mcilroy relinquished his stranglehold on the title around Amen Corner. These uncomfortable scenes were emphasised by the host broadcaster’s apparent decision to spare the public from having to watch Mcilroy’s demise once he had slipped from a four shot lead going in to a few shots back from the lead. It was the toughest day of Mcilroy’s fledgling career but now holding a six shot lead at the halfway stage of the US Open it will be fascinating to see if he can prove he has learnt from his deadline day demons at the Masters. To secure his first major scalp at the very next attempt following his this disappointment would be some signal of intent, and one which could see Rory cement the changing of the guard amongst golf’s elite.

Rory's Masters Misery, will there be a repeat performance?

Rory has much to do in order to match the career achievements of the ailing Tiger Woods but there are some definite comparisons to be drawn. When they are in the zone and competing at the business end of events they bristle with verve, confidence and assurance. Mcilroy perhaps lacks the intensity which has forever been part and parcel of Woods’ game, but they both seem to possess a similar auror and authority. Perhaps the greatest compliment which could be paid to Mcilroy is that his game at this age is arguably more technically sound and certainly more maintainable than that of Woods. He is able to produce phenomenal length and greater accuracy all with a swing which places seemingly far less stress upon his body than that which Woods’ swing inflicts upon his own. One would hope that this will stand Rory in good stead in his quest for a career of longevity as he seeks to emulate the successes of his heroes, including those of the great Tiger Woods.

Is this the swing which will give Rory success coupled with longevity?

Rory is certainly taking a little longer than Woods did to become a consistent winner on tour, but his unmistakable talent and natural swing and ability have set him out on an exciting career path. It is yet to be seen whether he can go on to match Woods’ achievements but if he does it could prove to be achieved with more of a marathon than a sprint. Even if he doesn’t go on to match Tiger, it seems implausible that he won’t go on to become the number one in the world at some point in the not too distant future. With Woods’ future in the game looking ever more uncertain, there is a huge void at the top of the game for a real character capable of sending the galleries of the world’s tours into raptures. Rory certainly seems to have a similar effect on golf’s greatest audiences and the thought of a developing Mcilroy and a recuperating Woods battling it out at the peaks of their powers is wondrous if not a little romantic given Woods’ ill health, both physical and psychological.

This weekend will be a huge test of character for Mcilroy, and we await with baited breath to see if he can hold his nerve this time around. He possesses all the talent in the world, all he needs now to prove that he is a real force is a Major to his name and this Sunday evening could see him claim his first.