Saturday 14 December 2019

Karlsson sets early lead

Sweden's Robert Karlsson set the early clubhouse lead on the first day of the 143rd Open Championship but with perfect scoring conditions at Royal Liverpool he was unlikely to hold it for long.

The 44-year-old was out in the first group at 6.25am and after a steady start, reaching the turn in one over, he birdied the 10th, 12th, 15th and 16th to reach three under, narrowly missing a birdie attempt at the last.

However, with some big names out on a receptive course bathed in sunshine and unaffected by wind, low scoring was a factor on an ideal morning in Hoylake.

While 14-time major winner Tiger Woods was steady rather than spectacular on only his second appearance since back surgery in March, the likes of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia were well into their stride.

The Northern Irishman produced some stunning approach play - almost holing his second at the second - to record three birdies in his first six holes.

That put McIlroy level with Karlsson on three under, which was also the same score as Garcia, Italy's Matteo Manassero and Americans Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.

Woods found himself dealing more in bogeys than birdies after dropping a shot at each of the first two holes - as many bogeys as he had in his first two rounds when he won the last of his three Claret Jugs on this course in 2006.

The links is much softer than the sun-burnt track of eight years ago and as a result players could afford to be more aggressive.

Not Woods, though. In 2006 he hit one driver in 72 holes and he took iron off every tee until the eighth hole when he reached for his three wood.

The former world number one, who struggled with his approach play over the front nine, eventually recorded a birdie at the 528-yard fifth where two long irons, a chip over a bunker and a 12-foot putt got him back to one over.

It was where he stayed as despite starting to get better value out of his mid irons he still struggled to find the bottom of the hole, two-putting from 30 feet and 25ft at the sixth and seventh respectively before brushing the edge of the cup from a similar distance at the eighth.

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