Victorious 2014 Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley carded the lowest round of his over-50s career, a six under par 66, on the Old Course at St Andrews as he sits just one shot off the lead after the first round of The Senior Open Presented by Rolex.
The Dubliner sits just behind America’s Kirk Triplett and Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant who each carded seven under par rounds of 65 on the Fife coast.
McGinley, who made his Staysure Tour debut last year, made seven birdies before a solitary bogey on the par four 15th and shares third place with Canada's Stephen Ames.
“I’ve been playing solid,” said McGinley. “I’ve played two tournaments in Europe this year and I’ve finished in the top ten in both of them. I’m really pleased; playing the Old Course on a day like this is just fabulous.
“Any time you come here, even for a practice round, there’s something magical and mystical about the place. If you love golf and the history, and all it stands for, this is the place to be.”
American in joint lead
Triplett, playing in his first Senior Open since 2015, set the clubhouse target of seven under par after a blemish free round on the Old Course.
“It’s really unique over here,” said the American. “When the bounces go your way, it’s really fun. I’m sure at some point this week we’ll find out if I can handle the bad bounces too.
“I have a local caddie this week. I’m really uncertain out there and that’s one of the reasons I wanted a local guy this week.”
Wiratchant, who has won on his last two Staysure Tour starts – the MCB Tour Championship and Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq – made five consecutive birdies from the third to the seventh holes, and then came home in 34 strokes for a round of 65.
“I didn’t think I could play like this on this course, it’s incredible,” said the all-time Asian Tour winner. “I’m not sure which part of my game suits this course because it’s very difficult. But today I was perfect. I only three-putted on two holes, but that’s normal on a course like this.”
Champion Golfers impress
In a share of fifth place on five under par are defending champion Bernhard Langer and American pair Scott McCarron and David Toms.
“I had a really good start,” said Langer, a ten-time Senior Major Champion. “I got to four under really quickly and then five under but made two bogeys; otherwise I played fairly solid. It was a pleasure playing with Tom Watson, as it always is.
“I told him on the 18th, he’s still hitting a lot of solid shots and you can see why he won so many Opens and other titles around the world.”
The evergreen Watson delighted the bumper crowds at the Old Course as he shot just one more than his age, 69.
“One of the things I haven’t done for about 20 years is have a scorecard with no fives on it, and I didn’t have a single five on it today,” said the five-time Open Champion. “I had opportunities to make a couple of fives but my long putts were good today and I hit a number of good-quality shots today.”
Nine golfers share eighth place on four under par, including Ryder Cup players Miguel Angel Jiménez, Tom Lehman, Kenny Perry, Phillip Price and Jarmo Sandelin.