Eight years ago, the last time the Open was held at Royal St. George's, Thomas Bjorn squandered a two-stroke lead over the final three holes. That included needing three swings to escape a bunker at No. 16. The Dane didn't even get into this year's event until Monday, when Vijay Singh withdrew. On Thursday, Bjorn birdied Nos. 14-16 and shot 5-under 65 to share the lead. "I probably didn't dwell on it as much as some people thought," Bjorn said of his 2003 collapse. "I think the only really hard time I had with it was when I came back … the year after." Bjorn got some good fortune at No. 16 this time. Appearing headed to the bunker, the ball instead bounced onto the green and rolled toward the cup. "We all know what it's like," Bjorn said. "A bounce here or there, and then it goes either wrong or right. (Thursday), it went my way." Through it all, he said, there was no thought of trying to make up for 2003. "A lot of people make a lot of things about that," he said. "But the only way I can play golf is to concentrate on the shot in front of me. It never entered my mind."
Hole of the day: No. 17
Distance/par: 426 yards; 4
Stroke average: 3.89 (second lowest)
The skinny: Amateur Tom Lewis birdied the hole to move into a tie for the lead. Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson, tied for third at one back, also birdied the hole. Co-leader Thomas Bjorn parred it.
Around the links
Ben Curtis, above, who won in 2003, the last time the Open was held at Royal St. George's, shot 7-over 77. Six golfers matched that, and there were four worse scores, including David Duval's 78. … Nearly half the field had completed the first round when Ricky Barnes found out he was even playing. Nicolas Coelsarts withdrew an hour before his afternoon tee time with an elbow injury. Barnes, the first alternate, warmed up quickly and shot 68. … A total of 35 players broke par on the normally tough layout, and another 15 matched par. The field average was 71.9. … No rain is projected for today, but winds are expected to increase as the day goes on to 20-25 mph.
Compiled from Times wires
PGA rookie Kyle Stanley missed a 9-footer Sunday for par at No. 18, helping Steve Stricker win the John Deere Classic. But he earned a spot in the Open by being the top finisher among those not qualified. Stanley, who shot 2-under 68, was optimistic enough that he took his passport to the John Deere but not enough so that he brought warm clothes, which he bought in England. "I didn't expect to be here," Stanley, 23, said. "But now I am, and I just hope I can take advantage of the opportunity."
Rory McIlroy, top left, was all the rage after routing the field at last month's U.S. Open. But Thursday it was fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke who had the big day, shooting 2-under 68.
"It's only the first round, but I played very nicely," said Clarke, whose round came during the calm weather of the afternoon. "My ball flight was pretty much under control, and that's what you've got to do to do well on links."
McIlroy battled winds and occasional rain in the morning to shoot 71. He three-putted for bogeys at Nos. 1 and 3 but played the final 15 holes at 1 under.
"It was a day where you just need to grind out a score," McIlroy said. "Anywhere around even par was a good start."
Quote of the day
"I'm not very excited. I'm going to go home and sleep."
Dustin Johnson, who made a hole-in-one at the 161-yard No. 16 with a wedge, on if it was hard to calm down on the next tee shot; he birdied No. 17 and shot par 70