It was not meant to be this way for Sir Nick Faldo. The Old Course had its revenge on the man who tore it up 25 years ago and, while a valiant valediction was meant to be on the cards this week, these links and the late-afternoon wind had no time for sentiment.
Faldo recorded an 11-over-par 83, sitting bottom of the leaderboard. The 57-year-old had to bear the brunt of difficult conditions on Thursday afternoon as the biting wind whipped in off the North Sea and the black clouds rolled in to darken the former champion’s mood.
There were eight bogeys for Faldo and a triple-bogey eight at the par-five 14th, where he lost a ball. His playing partners, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler, fared better but even they struggled to make an impact on the leaderboard, the weather doing in particular for Rose, who had made a bright start to his round.
This is expected to be Faldo’s last Open Championship and he attempted to see the funny side, but it would be an understatement to say he toiled. “Luckily I’ve got a bottle of Glenmorangie at home, so I’ll be all right for tomorrow. I’ll be refuelled for tomorrow,” he said.
“When it starts going badly, you can’t – I’m not a golfer anymore. You come here to try to do your best but these guys play every day of the week and it’s a tough golf course for them. I’m not even a part-time golfer. But I’m here with my boy, and my family is here and my friends. The bottom line is I still did it 25 years ago. You know, I’m still very grateful for that.”
The 57-year-old then joked: “I feel like I’ve let the leaders get away from me now, so I don’t think I have to worry about anything other than staying dry tomorrow.”
Rose was also fairly downbeat after shooting a one-under-par 71 when it could have been so much better. He opened with a front nine of 32 including four birdies and two missed birdie opportunities at the turn.
However, as the wind picked up so did the travails. A bogey at the 13th was followed by a scrambled up-and-down par on the 15th after an impressive bunker save. He found the sand again on the 16th but the error which frustrated him the most came on the last.
Having reached the green in two, Rose had a relatively simple seven-foot putt for par which slid narrowly left, a miss that sealed a costly momentum shift which leaves him six shots behind the leader, Dustin Johnson.
Rose will tee off on Friday at 9.44am alongside Faldo and Fowler, who finished at even par after this first round.
“You feel like you’re trying to hang in as best you can,” said Rose. “Ultimately bogeying the last is the one thing that leaves a sour taste, but other than that I hung in as best I could.
“It was just hard coming in. I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong, really. I had two three-putts, I suppose, three-putt on 18 and three-putt on 10.
“Those are the little errors that you can’t afford to make. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Quite clearly we were at a two- or three-shot disadvantage to the morning field.”
On Faldo’s tough day, he said: “He kept grinding, he kept working at it. Obviously it was a tough round, and coming back into the wind the holes are playing incredibly long, and he was trying to stretch the driver a little bit, hit a couple of poor tee shots and that’s when you start racking up doubles.
“He probably didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts which I think would have set the tone for the day for him.”
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