(Updated at 7:28 a.m. 7-16) TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) — John Senden wasn’t even supposed to be playing
On Thursday, he was leading the British Open.
The 38-year-old Australian claimed the top spot in the clubhouse on the opening day at Turnberry, taking
advantage of the pristine conditions to shoot a 4-under 66.
Senden failed to qualify for the Open and started out as the seventh alternate. He moved to the top of
the list, then got in Tuesday when Jeev Milkha Singh withdrew with a rib injury.
"I was lucky enough to be in the field, so that was a bonus," said Senden, who stayed away from
bogey and birdied four of the last six holes.
He wasn’t the only one going low.
Mark Calcavecchia went out in the first group of the day with his wife on the bag and shot a 67 — two
decades after he won his only major title just up the road in Troon.
The conditions along the picturesque Scottish coast were ideal for posting red numbers — the sun peeking
in and out of the clouds, the Ailsa Craig easily visible offshore, the flags hanging limply above the
grandstands, barely the hint of a breeze.
"It was perfect out there," Calcavecchia said. "The course couldn’t possibly play any
easier. I don’t know how long it’s going to stay like that."
Tiger Woods, who missed last year’s Open recovering from knee surgery, had several errant shots — one of
which led him to throw his club in disgust — but was still at 1 under through 11 holes.
Fifty-nine-year-old Tom Watson really turned back the clock. He was 4 under through 16 holes, tied with
Senden and David Howell, who blistered the front nine with a 31. Seven more players were at 3 under.
Watson, who had yet to miss a fairway, rekindled memories of his epic "Duel in the Sun" with
Jack Nicklaus in 1977, when the Open first came to historic Turnberry.
Calcavecchia remembered his 1989 performance at Troon, about 20 miles north of Turnberry. He beat Wayne
Grady and Greg Norman in a playoff to win the claret jug.
"Yep, it was 20 years ago, right up the road," he said. "This has always been my favorite
tournament of the year to come to."
But Calcavecchia almost passed up the chance to play this year. After playing 36 holes last Sunday at the
rain-plagued John Deere Classic, the 49-year-old American had back spasms and considered staying home.
Now, he’s glad he came — though the persnickety Scottish weather can change at any time. Just ask last
year’s runner-up, Ian Poulter, who had an afternoon tee time.
"Watching the golf this morning on TV," he wrote on Twitter. "It’s flat, calm and no rain
there. I’m staying 5 miles away and it’s pouring down."
One player who failed to take advantage of the benign conditions: 54-year-old Greg Norman, who held the
54-hole lead a year ago at Birkdale but faded in his bid to become the oldest major champion. This time,
he’s unlikely to even make the cut, struggling along at 8 over with one hole to play.
The weather is always the biggest factor at golf’s oldest major. When the wind and rain whips in off the
sea, anything under par is a good score. When the stormy conditions hold off, the course is there for
Fully recovered from the knee surgery, Woods was the overwhelming choice to capture his 15th major
championship, even though Padraig Harrington could become the first golfer in more than 50 years to win
the claret jug three years in a row.
Woods played with England’s Lee Westwood, who started with three straight birdies before falling back,
and 17-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa — a threesome trailed by huge crowds and nearly as many
Woods was a 2-1 favorite — no one else was better than Sergio Garcia at 15-1 — and the world’s No. 1
player didn’t even have to contend with longtime rival Phil Mickelson, who missed the Open for the first
time since 1993 to deal with more important matters. His wife and his mother were both recently
diagnosed with breast cancer.
Harrington, seeking to become the first player since Peter Thomson in 1954-56 to win the Open three years
in a row, was scheduled to play in the afternoon.