It was meant to be a moment to look back on and treasure in retirement, but Mark O’Meara may want to erase from his memory completely the opening round of his last Open Championship.
The 1998 Champion was given the privilege of leading the field out with the first tee shot of the 146th Championship. With his son caddying for him, it was meant to be a special occasion for father and son to savor.
With 20mph winds and steady rain blowing across the hole, the two-time major winner’s celebratory start quickly turned into a horror show as he appeared to lose his hold on a wet grip and his tee shot flew straight right and our-of-bounds.
He re-pegged a second ball and 10 minutes later he was signing for a quadruple eight.
Obviously rattled by the poor start, he added bogies at the 2nd, 4th and 6th holes before stumbling to a double five on the par-3 7th hole. He rounded out the front nine with two pars for an outward nine over 43.
“I just got off to such a poor start,” O’Meara said. “When you're nine-over par through eight holes or whatever I was, you know, it's very disappointing, but it's not the end of the world.
“I realise kind of where I'm at in my life. But, you know, you still play for your pride.
“When I play like that, I don't care who plays like that, they're disappointed. And certainly I'm disappointed that I didn't do better today. But it is what it is.
“I played really poorly, that's all I can say. I hung in on the back nine.
“When you're not playing good and the course is playing pretty tough out there … the great thing about Birkdale, even when the weather is really trying, and I've seen it way, way worse than this, you can still get it around Birkdale, which I think shows the quality of the golf course out there.”
The 60-year-old, who signed for an 11 over 81, admitted he felt a little nervous on the 1st tee and one shot into his round he knew he was “toast”.
“I was a little bit nervous, but I wouldn't say I was overly nervous,” O’Meara said. “I would have thought I would've been more nervous, but I was not pleased when I hit that shot. I don't think anybody would be.
“My name is on my golf bag, I've won the Open Championship, I'm in the Hall of Fame, when you hit one straight right off the first tee out of bounds, it would be like standing on the 1st tee at Ballybunion and hitting the graveyard. My day was toast after that first tee shot. But I still had to play.
RIGHT: O'Meara contemplates a missed putt late in his opening round of 81. PHOTO: Getty Images.
“At one point I felt like I was going to shoot 90 out there. I shot 81, so be it. It's not like I haven't shot 81 in my life. I don't care if you're 30, 40, 50, 60, whatever age you are, once again, you really play a lot for your pride, too.
“And I'm not very proud of what I accomplished out there today. I should have played better. I expect better.”
At the time of writing, Jordan Spieth was through 10 holes and leading the Championship at three under alongside England's Ian Poulter, who had played 17 holes. Welshman Stuart Manley, playing in the second group of the day, finished eagle-birdie to card a two under 68 to hold the clubhouse lead.