Unlikely Duo Shares British Open Lead

9:24 PM, Jul 14, 2011   |    comments
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Sandwich, England (Sports Network) - One leader didn't get into the field until five other players withdrew. The other leader is an amateur who won a qualifier to gain his spot in the season's third major championship.

Thomas Bjorn grabbed the next-to-last spot in the field on Monday when Vijay Singh withdrew. Bjorn went out in the sixth group Thursday morning and carded a five-under 65. Amateur Tom Lewis matched that 65 at Royal St. George's to tie for the lead after the opening round of the 140th British Open Championship.

Bjorn led into the final round at this venue in 2003, but dropped five strokes in a three-hole span to lose the lead and, eventually, the championship. He has struggled of late, but responded with his best round ever in a British Open.

Lewis, who will play on the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team later this year, posted the lowest score by an amateur in British Open history.

Miguel Angel Jimenez recorded a four-under 66 and was joined in a share of third place by Webb Simpson and 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner, reigning PGA Champion Martin Kaymer and Ricky Barnes, the final player to get into the field, posted matching rounds of two-under 68. They are among 12 players tied for sixth.

Barnes got into the championship early Thursday when Nicolas Colsaerts withdrew with an elbow injury.

Bjorn, whose infamous finish at Royal St. George's eight years ago cost him a major championship, mixed seven birdies and two bogeys in his opening round.

The 11-time winner on the European Tour birdied the second to get into red numbers. He later converted back-to-back birdie chances on the seventh and eighth to move to three-under.

Bjorn stumbled to a bogey on the ninth, but came back with a birdie on the 12th to get back into the lead at minus-three.

He ran off three straight birdies from the 14th, all from inside six feet, to jump to six-under par. At the last, Bjorn came up short of the green and chipped to 14 feet. His par-saving putt stayed above ground, but his 65 gave him a share of the first-round lead.

"It was a good day. I promised myself today that I would go out and focus on every shot ahead of me and I did that," Bjorn said. "I rolled in a few putts here and I hit pretty much all the shots I wanted to hit and walked off with a round of 65, which is very pleasing."

It was a tough round for Bjorn emotionally as he battled the demons of having lost the final-round lead at this course in 2003, as well as battling the loss of his father several weeks ago.

Through tears, Bjorn said, "Dad meant a lot to me. He would have been very proud of what I did today."

In 2003 at Royal St. George's, Bjorn stumbled to a bogey on the 15th, then needed three shots to escape a greenside bunker en route to a double-bogey on the 16th. That dropped him into a share of the lead with eventual champion Ben Curtis.

At the 17th, Bjorn's tee shot came to rest on the rough. He faltered to another bogey there and ended one shot back when he was unable to birdie the last.

Lewis, the winner of the 2009 Boys Championship, birdied the third to get into red figures. He dropped in back-to-back birdie efforts on the seventh and eighth to make the turn at three-under.

The young Englishman was two back at the turn, but stumbled to bogeys on the 11th and 13th.

Lewis, who won the International Final Qualifying at Rye to qualify for the championship, responded in fine fashion.

He poured in four consecutive birdie chances from the 14th to grab a piece of the lead. Lewis missed the green at the last, but managed to get up and down for a closing par to share the first round lead.

"I'm thrilled in my performance today," Lewis said in a television interview. "I didn't think I could perform to the level I did today. It's the first round and there is a long way to go. I'm thrilled to have played so well today. I couldn't ask for more."

Ian Poulter and Steve Stricker, who won his third straight John Deere Classic on Sunday, are tied at minus-one with 16 other players.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Stewart Cink, who beat Tom Watson for the Open Championship title two years ago, were part of a large group at even-par 70.

World No. 1 Luke Donald, world No. 2 Lee Westwood, U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi and amateur Peter Uihlein carded one-over 71s.

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen struggled to a two-over 72.

NOTES: Bjorn, who has never won a major, has shared second place three times in major championships, including twice at the British Open...This is the first time Bjorn has owned piece of the first-round lead in a major...Dustin Johnson had a hole-in-one on the par-three 16th. It was the 22nd in the last 30 years at the British Open...Curtis, the 2003 champ at Royal St. George's struggled to a seven-over 77...Jerry Kelly hit the first tee shot of the championship...Sandy Lyle, the 1985 champion at Royal St. George's, posted a three-over 73.

 

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