- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

TURNBERRY, Scotland | Ponytailed Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez capped a day for the aged Thursday at the 138th British Open, closing with a 50-foot birdie at Turnberry to post a 64 and claim a one-stroke edge on a leader board highlighted by 59-year-old Tom Watson (65).

“We look at the sea, and it looks like we are not in Scotland,” Jimenez said of placid opening-round conditions. “You can’t ask a better day to play. No windy, no nothing.”

Though he has 15 career European Tour victories and seven top-10 finishes in golf’s majors, Jimenez, 45, parlayed Thursday’s perfect scoring conditions into his first overnight lead at a major. His birdie-birdie finish propelled him by Watson and a host of other aging former champions, including Mark O’Meara (67), Mark Calcavecchia (67) and Tom Lehman (68).

“Not bad for an almost-60-year-old, is it?” said Watson, who collected the second of his five Open titles at Turnberry in 1977’s Duel in the Sun and added a Senior British Open victory on the Ayrshire links in 2003. “I don’t live in the past, but [the Duel in the Sun] certainly is at the forefront of a lot of conversations this week. Sure, I drew some inspiration from that.”

Neither of Watson’s Thursday playing partners was born 32 years ago, when Watson dropped Nicklaus by a stroke in arguably the greatest major championship ever played. But Sergio Garcia (70) appreciated Watson’s performance.

“The quality of the shots he hit was awesome to watch,” the 29-year-old Spaniard said.

Perhaps the most stunning feature of Watson’s 5-under effort on the 7,204-yard layout was just how seemingly easily it was accomplished. Sure, there was hardly a wisp of wind to defend the Ailsa Course, but Watson hit all but two fairways and found 15 greens in regulation during his bogey-free stroll.

“I think there was some spirituality out there today. Just the serenity of it was pretty neat,” Watson said. “I feel inspired playing here.”

Golf’s other “TW” lacked that inspiration. World No. 1 Tiger Woods sagged to a first-round 71 defined by repeated adventures in Turnberry’s wicked rough.

“Well, I hit a couple of shots to the right and [three-putted] a hole from about 15 feet, and I didn’t take advantage of the [par-5] 17th. So there you have it,” said Woods, who hit just eight fairways. “I made a few mistakes. Hopefully tomorrow I can play a little better, clean it up and get myself headed in the right direction.”

Woods fought every aspect of his game. He repeatedly missed right off the tee, even losing a 4-iron into the deep rough at the 14th. Disconcerting in its inconsistency, he then missed a handful of approaches left. And he failed to find his feel on the greens, routinely playing too much break and missing high from the 15-foot range.

Although two victories in his past three starts answered all questions concerning his rebuilt left knee, Woods hasn’t looked himself in the first two majors this season, struggling early and fading at the tape to tie for sixth at both the Masters and U.S. Open.

Between his staggering start on a perfect scoring day and the absence of swing instructor Hank Haney (who didn’t accompany his man to a major for the first time), Woods now faces a brutal climb back into contention from behind 67 players.

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