Lytham St Annes (England): Jeev Milkha Singh made the most of perfect conditions on the front nine but then failed to hold onto those early gains and ended with a modest even-par 70 in the first round of The Open Championships at the Royal Lytham & St Annes on Thursday.
Jeev had four birdies on the first, third, ninth and 11th in the first 11 holes to be right on top of the leaderboard but two bogeys (12th and 17th holes) and one double bogey (13th) against one more birdie (14th) in the last seven holes spoilt the great start. He had a bogey on the seventh as well.
Daniel Chopra was four-over through 16 holes and Anirban Lahiri was yet to tee off.
Jeev, who earned a berth in The Open with a win in the Scottish Open last week, was six behind leader Adam Scott, who was the only one without a Major in the top seven finishers just a little after midway through the first round.
Zach Johnson and Paul Lawrie were tied second at 65 each, while Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson were all at 67 for a share of tied fourth spot.
With the early morning drizzle giving way to great weather with no breeze, the scores were very good in the first session. A lot of players went really low, but none better than Scott, who finished with a six-under 64, despite a closing bogey.
The 1999 Open winner Lawrie picked three birdies on the tough back nine, while 2007 Masters champion Johnson dropped a late bogey on 17th.
Els, two-time Open winner, one-over after six made a great recovery with two birdies in last three holes for a 67, while 2010 US Open winner McDowell dropped a shot on 18th in his 67.
Woods looked set for a low round at four-under through six holes but then ran out of birdies and dropped a shot on 15th. This year`s Masters winner, Bubba Watson came in with a similar 67.
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, a three-time Asian Tour No. 1, playing his sixth Open, started with a solid 69. He had three birdies against two bogeys.
Jeev took his bogeys in the stride saying, "I played really well the first 11 holes. The 13th hole was the hole that got me. I hit a bad (tee) shot, and I think I got greedy with it.
"When you hit it in the rough you need to take your medicine and move on. I made a double (he stayed in the bunker with his second shot in the sand pit) there but came back with a birdie on the next and made some good pars coming in.
"The rough is tough, for sure. I was in the rough on the last three holes. I was one-under par playing the 16th. I thought I could drive it on for sure. I just pushed the driver a bit too much. And I think if the wind is the same tomorrow or the next three days, I would go for it and see what comes my way and take it from there," he added.
Jeev was off to a great start with two birdies in the first four holes, which included a 25-footer birdie putt on the first, a chip-in for par on third and a 12-foot birdie on fourth. He then missed 15-footer for birdie on fifth hole.
On the seventh, the first of the only two par-fives, Jeev went into the bunker off the tee and then to the left rough. He did come out alright, but once on the green he missed an up-and-down for par.
The big error came on the 13th, where instead of a driver he took a three-wood, as the group was put on the clock for slow play.
Jeev went into the right rough and from there into the bunker, where he had a horrible lie against the steep wall. He failed to get out and then missed a bogey putt, too, for a double.
Jeev, who came into the week without a practice round, admitted he entertained thoughts of going lower after being three-under after 11 holes.
"Oh, yes, for sure. I was going to get lower. But like I said, there was a hiccup on No. 13, but that`s fine, it happens. And, you know, take it from there. But the good part is I came back with a birdie on the next (14th) and I was aggressive on the next few holes," he said.
On the weather, Jeev said, "We were very lucky with the weather, honestly. No wind today. I think it`s a bonus, and that`s why when you have an early tee time, you go out there and try to make the most out of it."
On his putting, he said, "The first hole was like a 25-footer I holed for a birdie. And through the round I holed some long putts including a couple of other 20-footers for birdies and pars. I chipped-in for birdie on No. 4. I made a lot of up-and-downs Thursday, you know, and that`s what links golf is."