ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Mark O'Meara didn't come to the British Open expecting to hit the ball this well. Nor did he expect to feel such a strong sense of peace.
It was hard to tell which was more surprising.
O'Meara wasn't even sure whether to play at St. Andrews this year because his 81-year-old father, Robert, took a turn for the worse from an infection that is attacking a heart valve. His sisters are with him, and they urged O'Meara to join them.
"It was touch and go," O'Meara said after opening with a 69. "I love my father dearly, and if I get the call, I'll go home. But I believe my dad would have wanted me to play."
O'Meara was in Ireland at the start of last week for the J.P. McManus charity pro-am. When he arrived in St. Andrews on the weekend, he cried when he talked about his dad. Some 20 years ago, before O'Meara won the claret jug at Royal Birkdale in 1998, they took a golf vacation together to St. Andrews.
"He shot 89, birdied the last hole," O'Meara said, smiling at the memory. "I filmed his whole round. We hired two local caddies and couldn't understand them. I know what this place means to him."
O'Meara said he is unable to call because the intensive care unit does not have phones in the room, but his father is alert enough to hold his sister's hand. "I hope he can see what I shot today," O'Meara said.
Wakeup call: Paul Lawrie is believed to be the first British Open champion to strike the tournament's opening shot.
The 1999 winner at Carnoustie was in the first group that went off Thursday at 6:30 a.m. The Royal and Ancient noted that Lawrie woke up at 5 a.m. to get ready for the first round. Playing with him was Steve Marino, who awoke a tad earlier.
"I got up at 3:30," Marino said. "I have a habit of waking up three hours before my tee time. It's nice to be done with it now. I've got the whole day to relax."
He and Lawrie each shot a 69, which seemed like a reasonable score at the time.
Tiger tales: The London tabloids were tame when it came to Tiger Woods on the opening day of the British Open.
The papers, which have been avidly chronicling the sex scandal that tarnished Tiger Woods' reputation, focused more on golf Thursday.
Still, they managed to feature him prominently on the back pages with references to his on-course conduct problems.
"Don't screw up again, Tiger," said the headline in The Sun, referring to comments by three-time Open champion Nick Faldo and R&A chief Peter Dawson.
"The world No. 1 has been slammed for turning the air blue, spitting and hurling his clubs around after wayward shots," the paper said.