HOYLAKE, England — Ernie Els hit a spectator in the face with his opening tee shot Thursday, shaking up the two-time British Open champion.
The man's injury and Els' subsequent triple-bogey 7 on the first hole were just the start of his problems. The Big Easy will have a big task trying to make the cut after 7-over 79, including 42 on the front nine.
"There was blood everywhere," Els said. "It was like a bullet coming at him. I obviously felt pretty bad about it. It wasn't nice. I was trying to hit it left, and should have told the starters to move the people back on the left side, but I didn't do that."
Els later tweeted: "Really tough day today. Just spoke to the gentleman I hit on the 1st and happily he's fine. Got him some tickets … this weekend."
On the first green, Els missed a bogey putt from about 8 inches, bizarrely backhanded the subsequent footlong putt just past the hole and tapped in for his triple. "Yeah, I was kind of finished. I started to miss short putts, it was just a nightmare," he said.
Els said he may have "put the jinx" on his playing partners — defending champion Phil Mickelson shot 74, and Masters winner Bubba Watson had 76.
But there was a bit of comic relief on the 18th, where Els had to gently prod a frog away from the tee box with his driver, prompting a smile.
missing driver: Justin Rose played the first two holes without a driver after it was mistakenly removed from his bag and shipped nearly 186 miles south of Royal Liverpool. His caddie, Mark Fulcher, had arranged to send two drivers to a couple of his friends in the south of England. Unfortunately, one of the drivers he gave away belonged to Rose. "It was a bit of a comedic start to the day, no doubt," said Rose, who managed to get the driver returned. The afternoon starters encountered the toughest conditions, with the wind picking up off the Irish Sea, and Rose, who shot par 72, said he "ran out of a little bit of steam" on a back nine that he played in 1 over. "Even par always feels like a waste of five hours, really," he said. "I felt like there was a lot of good stuff today. Really felt comfortable with my game early on.''
living the dream: On a typical Thursday at 10:30 a.m., John Singleton would be making paints and varnishes in a resin factory. Maybe driving around in a forklift. Not this Thursday morning. On this one-off occasion, Singleton was 10 minutes down the road, whipping up the crowd on the first tee before taking the biggest — and most nerve-wracking — shot of his life. "I just wanted to enjoy it," the 30-year-old qualifier said, with a huge grin. "I may never get the chance again." His boss closed the factory and bought co-workers tickets to watch Singleton. He shot 6-over 78, having been at par after 11 holes. "I shot 6 over, it feels like I shot 6 under," he said. "I just played in the Open Championship.
not so elementary: Five-time champion Tom Watson took the scenic route around Royal Liverpool. "My driving today was pretty pitiful, I was in the rough, or out of bounds, or lost," said Watson, who shot 1-over 73 that included four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey. ''I hit some decent iron shots, but with the driver, just getting the ball in the fairway was not very good. I am going directly to the practice range so I can work on something I thought about on the 18th tee," the U.S. Ryder Cup captain said.
plenty of heart: Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton shot 1-under 71, his first major since he tied for the runnerup at last month's U.S. Open. Compton said he was made to feel right at home in his first British Open: "It's been pretty calm … I see smiles and people saying 'good luck.' But I don't think people really know of me yet."