HOYLAKE, England – Five-time champion Tom Watson took the scenic route around Royal Liverpool on Thursday in the first round of the British Open.
"My driving today was pretty pitiful, I was in the rough, or out of bounds, or lost," said Watson, who shot a 1-over-par 73 in a round 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."
Before he did, he was told Tiger Woods, who shot 69, was having a good day in his first major since undergoing back surgery on March 31.
Watson, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, has said Woods was no certainty to make the team — the 14-time major champion is No. 72 in the Ryder Cup standings with only five weeks remaining to earn one of nine automatic qualifying spots.
"I would like to see Tiger do well for selfish reasons to see him get on the team," Watson said. "And 3-under right now is a good start."
The Ryder Cup will be held from Sept. 23-28 at Gleneagles, Scotland. Woods has made every Ryder Cup team since he turned pro except for 2010, when he was returning from a scandal in his private life that led to divorce.
BENIGN LINKS: Darren Clarke said it plain and simple: "This is not links golf today."
Clarke, the 2011 champion at Royal St. George's, said he had difficulty remembering a nicer day weather-wise — sunny and light winds for at least the first half of the day — at any British Open he's played. And this is his 23rd.
The 45-year-old Clarke, who shot an even-par 72 thanks to an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th, said he hoped for more challenging conditions in the days ahead, and he might get his wish. The wind was expected to pick up on Friday and Saturday's forecast was for rain.
"This is not the way this golf course is supposed to be played," Clarke said, smiling when told of the expected worsening conditions.
"The biggest threat is always the weather, and you don't need a lot of wind to make Royal Liverpool play tough."
Five-time champion Tom Watson said he had recollections of better weather.
"Over 37 years we have had lots of wonderful days like this, it's summer," Watson said. "We've had a lot more good days than bad."
But he agreed with Clarke, his playing partner Thursday, that it was not traditional links golf during their first round.
"It was more of target golf, you didn't have to play a lot of bouncing shots," Watson said. "It was a very benign golf course."
GOOD START: Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton shot a 1-under 71 Thursday in the opening round of the British Open, his first major since he tied for the runner-up spot behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer 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'," he said. "But I don't think people really know of me yet."
Compton underwent his first transplant at age 12 due to an inflamed heart muscle and another 16 years later after driving himself to the hospital while having a near-fatal heart attack.
"I'm just a regular guy that has been through some serious stuff and earned a spot to play this year in this tournament," Compton said. "I'm trying to make as much noise as I can. My game, hopefully, will slowly improve during the week."