The cream rose to the top at Royal Lytham today with six major champions in the top eight on the leaderboard at the Open Championship, including former world number one Tiger Woods.
But it was a player yet to join that exclusive club who set the clubhouse target for the rest to chase, with Australia’s Adam Scott taking advantage of benign conditions to card an opening 64, six under par.
Scott, who has recorded just one top 10 in 12 previous appearances in the Open, had the chance to create history when he stood seven under with two to play, therefore needing one more birdie for the first round of 62 in any major.
However, a bogey on the 18th after a poor tee shot meant the 31-year-old had to settle for equalling the lowest Open round at Lytham, which was set by Tom Lehman on his way to the Claret Jug in 1996.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, who has made the cut just five times in 12 Opens since his shock win at Carnoustie in 1999, shared second place with former US Masters champion Zach Johnson on five under, with Johnson looking for a second win in succession after claiming the John Deere Classic on Sunday.
Lawrie chipped in twice in the first five holes for two of his six birdies, admitting: “It was the most bizarre five holes of my career. I was three under and could have been one over.”
South African Ernie Els, champion at Muirfield in 2002, and current Masters champion Bubba Watson returned matching rounds of 67, while former US Open champion Graeme McDowell was four under with two to play.
But it was the appearance of Woods on the leaderboard which had sparked the championship into life after a low-key start, the 14-time major champion moving into the outright lead with four birdies in his first seven holes.
Woods, who has been an also-ran or non-runner in the Open since his last win in 2006, had the chance to match the Open record of 29 for the front nine at Lytham when he hit a fine approach to the par-three ninth, but missed from 10ft as his putter went cold.
A bogey on the 15th after twice tangling with heavy rough left Woods three under with two to play, while playing partners Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia were four and two over respectively.
Defending champion Darren Clarke had fared even worse, the Ulsterman returning an opening 76 which featured just one birdie. David Duval, champion here in 2001, carded a 74.
Scott admitted he had been thinking about shooting the first 62 in major championship history, albeit at a slightly inopportune time.
“I know there’s never been a 62 and when I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee I did a look at the leaderboard and realised it was a par-70,” the world number 13 said.
“And I also probably then realised that I wasn’t going to be the guy to shoot 62.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that.
“So I got rid of that quickly and got on to playing the 17th, but unfortunately dropped one up the last.”
Scott finished eighth in the Masters and 15th in the US Open this year, despite shooting opening rounds of 75 and 76 respectively, and revealed his caddie Steve Williams – who worked for Woods during 13 of his 14 major wins – had helped focus his mind on making a fast start.
“We talked about that mindset because I was playing well at all the majors this year, but the first round I’m shooting myself in the foot a little bit and making it too much work to get back in it,” he added.
“And he [Williams] wanted me to go to that first tee today like it was the 72nd hole and you have three to win. Really switch yourself on from the first hole. That was a good little trigger he kind of helped out with.”