Mark O’Meara shoots opening 67 and quips it’s “one for the old farts”
Tom Lehman, a sprightly 54, and cigar-chomping, pony-tailed, rioja-sipping Miguel Angel Jimenez, all of 49, defies age barrier to manoeuvre into contention with 68s
Mark O’Meara just misses out on a birdie at the last during the first round of the British Open at Muirfield. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Mark O’Meara didn’t stand on ceremony. “One for the old farts,” quipped the American. And why not? Again, just as Greg Norman contended at Birkdale and Tom Watson contended at Turnberry in recent years, a blast from the past inveigled a way to conquer a links and, in so doing here at Muirfield, handed out lessons to many of the game’s young guns.
Except, this time, O’Meara – at 56 years of age – wasn’t alone in upholding the virtues of the veterans. Tom Lehman, a sprightly 54, and cigar-chomping, pony-tailed, rioja-sipping Miguel Angel Jimenez, all of 49, defied the age barrier to manoeuvre into contention. One round down, three to go; but, whilst some whinged and moaned about a course set-up that had pins placed atop greens that grew slicker as the day progressed, the old-timers kept their counsel.
O’Meara opened with a 67. Lehman signed for a 68, and Jimenez also put his name to a 68. Of the trio, Jimenez is the only one still playing regularly on a main tour – the Spaniard having recovered from a broken leg suffered in a skiing injury that curtailed the earlier part of the season’s campaign – but O’Meara and Lehman, operating on the Champions Tour, relished the opportunity to use their creativity to gain an edge.
“I realise I’m 56, but I also realise that I’ve won the Open championship (in 1998). And I also know that links golf is a little bit different than playing in the Masters. It’s a little bit different than playing in the US Open. It’s a little bit different from the PGA . . . links golf is not just about power, where a lof of the game today is ‘bombs away’ and hit the ball a long way and up in the air. Links golf is about creativity, shot process and thinking about where you need to land the ball,” said O’Meara, who hasn’t made a cut in the championship since Turnberry in 2009.
As O’Meara made his way to the 10th tee, having completed his outward nine in five under, he spied Tiger Woods who was making his way to the putting green before his own round. “He kind of gave a wink, and I go up and piped my drive (on 10),” recalled O’Meara.
So, does he have a chance of winning? “When I play like I did today, yeah, I think I can. I didn’t feel like I was 56 years old, I felt like I was 32 . . . I understand I’m not a spring chicken, that I have not won a lot in the last 10, 11 years of my career, but I know that sometimes if you just keep getting closer, sooner or later they’re going to open the door.”
Jimenez, too, was taking the conservative approach. “I have not even though about winning or anything like that.”