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Lawrie opens proceedings as rain clears for early starters

Former champion Paul Lawrie today got the 139th Open Championship under way in near-perfect conditions at St Andrews.

Lawrie, winner at Carnoustie in 1999, struck the opening shot at 6:30am and unsurprisingly had no trouble finding the widest fairway in golf.

The 41-year-old Scot's approach to the green finished around 20ft beyond the flag, which was placed close to the burn which guards the front of the green. From there, Lawrie charged his first putt three feet past, but holed the return to card a par four along with playing partners Thomas Levet and Steve Marino.

The pin on the 453-yard second hole was in a much more accessible position and Lawrie and Levet both took full advantage, Levet making the first birdie of the day from five feet and Lawrie following suit from three.

Germany's Marcel Siem and veteran American Loren Roberts, playing in the group behind, also birdied the second to make it a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.There was none of the wind and rain which lashed the course yesterday and forced the cancellation of the four-hole Champions Challenge, with the flat, calm conditions giving the early starters a great chance to make a flying start.

World number one and overwhelming bookies favourite Tiger Woods, twice an Open winner here, started his bid for a 15th major and fourth Claret Jug at 9.09am and is sure to be pursued by the biggest galleries of the day with playing partners Justin Rose of Britain and Colombian Camilo Villegas.

Woods won here by handsome margins in 2000 and 2005 but today's outing will be his first competitive one in Britain since the spectacular unravelling of his private life last year and subsequent sabbatical from the game.

Tom Watson went out in the following group, the 60-year-old, five-times winner seeking to repeat the form that saw him go within a whisker of a fairytale win at Turnberry last year before losing a play-off to fellow American Stewart Cink.