21 Jul 2023 | Professional golf |

Lee, Herbert lead Aussies at The Open

by Tony Webeck

Min Woo Lee Round 1 The Open
Min Woo Lee plays a tee shot during Round 1 of The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Min Woo Lee flirted with the disaster that befell fellow Australian Lucas Herbert as the pair finished day one of The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at even par and five strokes off the lead.

None of the 13 Australasian players in the field finished the day in red figures, Herbert tumbling from top spot on the leaderboard with a triple-bogey at the par-3 17th as defending champion Cameron Smith opened with a round of 1-over 72. Fellow Queenslanders Jason Day and Adam Scott also posted 72 in Round 1.

In largely favourable conditions, 5-under 66 was the low mark of the day, local hope Tommy Fleetwood joining Amateur Champion Christo Lamprecht and Argentine Emiliano Grillo at the top of the leaderboard.

After an eagle at the par-5 15th and a great sand save for par a hole later, Herbert arrived at the 17th hole – just under 120 metres long but with a devilish small green surrounded by danger – at 3-under par and tied for the lead.

He dragged his tee shot left, into the light rough, but worse was to come when his chip raced across the putting surface into a deep, revetted bunker.

Shot number three from a tough lie, standing with one foot out of the bunker, left the Victorian still in the sand after it failed to climb the steep slope to the green and he ended making a triple-bogey six.

“I didn’t think I did a lot wrong on 17 to make six,” Herbert reflected.

“I’m not mad about it all. Obviously, I would like to change 17 but I felt I maybe hit a poor chip shot and that was about it.

“I don’t think I’ll be the only one to run up a big score there.”

Lee was concerned about doing just that when he found the pot bunker fronting the green on the ninth-hardest hole of the day.

The 24-year-old played his bunker shot to just outside seven feet and made his par, his confidence buoyed further with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th.

“I was in that front bunker and I've been telling everyone that bunker is probably the worst spot you can hit it in,” said Lee, whose only real misstep of the round was a double-bogey after hitting his second out-of-bounds at the par-4 third.

“Luckily it went a metre away from the lip and I actually got to hit it up and made my par.

“It's a tough hole. It's not easy. It's only a wedge, but if you don't strike it, then it gets tough.”

Smith began his championship defence with a blistering drive down the first but it would be an otherwise frustrating day of forgone fairways, the 29-year-old finding the short grass from the tee less than 36 per cent of the time.

“There are a couple of holes where it feels like you can't hit the fairway, and it's just awkward. It's something I'm going to have to put up with,” Smith conceded.

“I hit a couple of good drives the last few holes there on 16 and 18. They both went into some fairway bunkers, and they were probably some of my best swings of the day.

“I think that sums up links golf, though, to be honest. Some of your best shots and best strikes end up in the worst positions.”

West Australian Haydn Barron was the best of the Open debutants, making birdie at the two par 3s on the back nine in his round of 3-over 74.

“I was crapping myself down the first,” admitted Barron, who qualified by virtue of his tie for fourth at the Australian Open.

“I miss-hit an 8-iron at 11 and it went in the deep rough and I made double. I guess that’s what happens at majors.

“Went double-bogey, bogey at 11 and 12 and then played really solid coming in. I think 12-18 is probably the toughest stretch on the course and I played that in a couple under.

“I’ve got all my first experiences in the books now and I’ll be better for it for the rest of my career now.”

Round 1 scores T1 Christo Lamprecht (a) 66 T1 Tommy Fleetwood 66 T1 Emiliano Grillo 66 T32 Lucas Herbert 71 T32 Min Woo Lee 71 T48 Jason Day 72 T48 Adam Scott 72 T48 Cameron Smith 72 T90 Haydn Barron 74 T122 Harrison Crowe (a) 76 T122 Connor McKInney 76 T130 David Micheluzzi 77 T139 Ryan Fox (NZ) 78 T139 Daniel Hillier (NZ) 78 T139 Travis Smyth 78

Round 2 tee times AEST 3.46pm Daniel Hillier (NZ), Kyung Nam Kang, Kensei Hirata 4.19pm Brendon Todd, Romain Langasque, Travis Smyth 4.41pm Min Woo Lee, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Harrison Crowe (a) 5.14pm Zach Johnson, Matt Wallace, David Micheluzzi 7.42pm Guido Migliozzi, Oliver Wilson, Connor McKinney 8.58pm Ryan Fox (NZ), Lucas Herbert, Byeong Hun An 11.04pm Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jason Day 11.48pm Scottie Scheffler, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Scott 11.59pm Cameron Smith, Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark 12.43am Dan Bradbury, Oliver Farr, Haydn Barron

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