Chances are looking strong for a repeat winner to emerge from the 2012 British Open.
If the first round of play offered an accurate barometer of the remaining three rounds, the battle for the Claret Jug should be wide open. A multitude of past major champions took advantage of prime scoring conditions at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to post impressive first round scores.
Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, and Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters Champion, both shot 5-under 65 to tie for second place after the first round. Tiger Woods headlined another group of past champions with a 3-under 67 to position himself in a sixth place tie. Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell all mirrored Woods' opening day score.
Woods looked solid coming in as the Vegas favorite to win the British Open. He sank four birdies on the first seven holes and hit 15 of 18 greens. Woods missed just one fairway and rescued himself from a potential disaster when he bogeyed on the 15th after sending his ball into some thick rough.
Of course, a first-time winner could end up being crowned again. Adam Scott is a solid position to take the Claret Jug if he can build on his excellent first round performance. No other golfer could quite match what Scott did on Thursday.
The 31-year-old Australian put on a birdie clinic at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Scott sank eight birdies en route to post a 6-under 64 and take the clubhouse lead. His opening day performance helped him tie the course record set by Tom Lehman in 1996 and blew away his previous personal best at the British Open. He played in the British Open 12 other times before this year and never shot better than a 68 in those appearances. Scott also fell one stroke shy of the best ever in a grand slam event.
Scott has been close to winning a major before. He tied for second place at the 2011 Masters and tied for third at the 2006 PGA Championship. His biggest PGA Tour win came in 2004 when Scott won the 2004 Players Championship.
Everything started clicking for Scott when he birdied the 4th hole to erase a bogey on the 3rd. He went on to sink seven birdies on the next 12 holes. Each part of his game seemed in sync. His drives and irons were accurate. His short game was reliable even on longer putts. Only a bogey on the 18th hole prevented him from tying the lowest ever score in a major.
If Scott does prevail, he would be the first Australian golfer to win a major since Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open.
John Coon enjoys getting in a round from time to time in the Salt Lake City area when he is not covering golf as a freelance sports reporter.