Reigning champion Collin Morikawa described his first round at St Andrews as a blur after struggling with his putter in a level-par 72 at the Open on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Californian, who gave a masterclass in iron accuracy and clutch putting to win at Sandwich a year ago, never really got going as he fell off the early pace.
Four birdies were matched by four bogeys and he knows he will need a big improvement on Friday.
“Today was kind of just a blur. Today was just hit some good drives and hit a bad second shot, hit some good second shots, hit a bad putt. Never got any momentum going,” he said.
“The only momentum I had was 9 and 10, and after that, it was just kind of like scrambling for pars, trying to make five to ten-footers. That’s stressful golf.
“Out here you can’t make it stressful in a major championship when guys are making some birdies and taking advantage of those holes that are fairly gettable today.”
Asked if the greens had changed speed from the practice rounds, he added: “No. Just bad putting. Simply bad putting.”
Morikawa was eight shots behind clubhouse leader Cameron Young, blaming a poor day with the putter as organisers beefed up the Old Course with tough pin positions.
“I think I three-putted twice from the fringe or three-putted three times on the fringe at least,” Morikawa, who played with favourite Rory McIlroy, told reporters.
“You just can’t be giving yourself eight to ten feet for par out here when you’re just off the green.
“Sometimes you have those days, but it’s pretty frustrating when you felt like you had it and you don’t start seeing putts match up to what you see.”
With some shared greens, rounds at St Andrews can be long but Morikawa said he was surprised how slow play was.
“I figured it would be slow, but I didn’t know it would be this slow. We were waiting on groups at tees, waiting on fairways,” he said. “Xander and I talked about it, we’re watching more golf than we ever have. You stay in the fairway, and you’re watching two other groups play golf.
“That’s part of it this week of just staying patient and make sure you’re not rushing your shots.”
Woods makes horror start at British Open
Tiger Woods made a dismal start to his opening round at the British Open as he carded two double-bogeys on the front nine at St Andrews on Thursday to slump to five-over par.
The American 15-times major champion, who has won the Open twice at the home of golf, looked out of sorts from the moment he found the water on the par-four first hole and started with a six on his card.
Bogeys at the third and fourth holes took Woods to four over par and he grimaced after failing to hole a short putt on the seventh green to rack up another six.
He did sink a six-foot putt to birdie the ninth, grinning broadly as he acknowledged warm applause from the crowd.
Woods, who returned to competitive golf in April at the Masters 14 months after suffering serious injuries in a car crash, missed last month’s U.S. Open to prepare for the British Open.
But the 46-year-old looked uncomfortable as he trudged around the Old Course and, already 13 shots adrift of early leader Cameron Young, needs to make up considerable ground if he is to avoid missing the halfway cut.
Woods was lying tied 145th in the 156-man field midway through his first round.
McIlroy ready to get fiddly after fast start
Rory McIlroy was a happy man after starting his bid for a second British Open title with a smooth first-round 66 at St Andrews on Thursday.
The world number two picked up four birdies on the front nine and two more around his only bogey at the 13th, before almost holing a long eagle putt on the final green to finish two shots behind pace-setter Cameron Young.
“Fantastic start,” McIlroy told reporters. “Just sort of what you hope will happen when you’re starting off your week. I did everything that you’re supposed to do around St Andrews.”
The Northern Irishman has secured two victories this season as well as finishing second in the Masters and tied fifth at the U.S. Open, one of the most consistent runs of form he has enjoyed since he won his four major crowns from 2011-14.
“Overall, really pleased, he said. “It’s another good start at a major. Three in a row for me now.
“I came in here playing well, and I’ve played this golf course well over the years. So I knew if I just went out there and played my game and stuck to my game plan, that something like this was possible.”
McIlroy appears to be very comfortable on the golf course.
“Everything feels very settled,” he said. “No real issues with my game. Everything feels like it’s in good shape. Everything feels just sort of nice and quiet, which is a nice way to be.”
McIlroy, 33, said he had tried to take a more cautious approach at times.
“I think it’s accepting that sometimes and not being overly aggressive, even when you put yourself in some of these positions,” he said. “I think that’s important.”
McIlroy knows a good start is no guarantee of success as he bids to win the fifth major title he has waited so long for.
“I need to go out tomorrow and back up what I just did today,” he said. “It’s the fiddliest Open that I’ve played. Fiddly hasn’t really been my forte over the years, but I’m hopefully going to make it my forte this week.”