The first round of the British Open was absolutely balmy, both the weather and the scoring.
Who would’ve thought it would be 80 degrees with near dead calm wind at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club on the northwest coast of England, tucked near the Irish Sea?
Who would’ve thought two dozens players would shoot in the 60s?
And who would’ve thought seven Americans would be among the eight players tied for second, two strokes behind leader Paul Broadhurst of England?
In fact, who would’ve thought Broadhurst - who has never been higher than 15th on the money list in seven years on the European tour - would be leading?
“I am surprised it is not windy,” Broadhurst said after shooting a 6-under-par 65 on Thursday. “Normally it is. Whether that’s the reason the Americans are doing so well, I have no idea. Most unusual.”
Most unusual indeed. In fact, downright balmy.
The rolling fairways, receptive greens and wimpy wind made Lytham easy pickings.
Loren Roberts, Mark O’Meara, Mark McCumber, Brad Faxon, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman and Mark Brooks all shot 4-under-par 67 along with Hidemichi Tanaka of Japan, two strokes behind Broadhust.
“The conditions could not have been better,” Couples said after his five-birdie, one-bogey round. “Everything was hard but the greens were accepting our shots.”
Royal Lytham looked like an Open course - brown, hard fairways, wheat field-like rough and graveyard bunkers - but ideal weather and well-watered greens made it play more like a PGA Tour stop.
With the flags over the old clubhouse hanging nearly limp in the light wind that did little to chill the unusual 80-degree temperature, player after player went right at the Lytham course.
More than one-third of the 156 players in the field matched par or better. And never in the eight previous Opens held here has anyone shot lower than the 65 Broadhust fashioned.
Nick Faldo, the Masters champion who is looking for his fourth British Open victory and seventh major championship, was in a bunch three strokes back with a 68, along with Ernie Els of South Africa and Nick Price of Zimbabwe.
A slew of other Americans - including Jeff Maggert, Payne Stewart, Fuzzy Zoeller, Jay Haas and Billy Mayfair - shot below the par of 71.
No rain is in the forecast and unless the wind picks up dramatically and the greens are allowed to firm up, the birdie barrage will continue.
Most of the best scores were shot early in the day, when the greens were at their softest. Some of those playing in the afternoon found trouble on the back nine.
Defending champion John Daly was 5-under through 11 holes, but bogeyed four of the last eight holes for a 70, one stroke better than Greg Norman.
Jack Nicklaus, playing in his 35th consecutive British Open at age 56, birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 13 to get to 4-under, but finished with a 69.
xxxx LEADERBOARD First-round leaders at the British Open being played at the 6,892-yard, par-71 Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club: Paul Broadhurst 32-33-65 Mark McCumber 32-35-67 Hidemichi Tanaka 31-36-67 Brad Faxon 32-35-67 Fred Couples 32-35-67 Mark O’Meara 32-35-67 Tom Lehman 32-35-67 Loren Roberts 32-35-67 Mark Brooks 32-35-67
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.