Begay sets early Open pace

Notay Begay, the native American who was a college and Walker Cup team-mate of Tiger Woods, showed the world number one the way with a lightning start to the 129th Open championship at St Andrews today.

Notay Begay, the native American who was a college and Walker Cup team-mate of Tiger Woods, showed the world number one the way with a lightning start to the 129th Open championship at St Andrews today.

While Woods began his bid to become the youngest player ever to win all four majors with seven successive pars - and had to work hard for a couple of them - Begay went to the turn in five-under-par 31.

Winner of his last two US Tour events, the 27-year-old, who spent seven nights in jail earlier this season after being convicted of drink-driving, led by a stroke from Dubliner Paul McGinley.

Also prominent was Andrew Coltart, who played the front nine in 33 on his return to the links where he helped Scotland win the Dunhill Cup in 1995.

Nick Faldo continued his comeback with two birdies in the first five holes and Darren Clarke was two under as well with five to play.

But it was Begay producing the main fireworks. Only two of the first 39 players onto the Old Course managed to birdie the 376-yard first, but he was one of them and he followed that with four birdies in a row from the long fifth.

That run was completed with a 40-footer at the 175-yard eighth and he almost made it five in succession, but his 10-foot effort on the next narrowly missed.

McGinley, who had set the pace at Lytham four years ago after a hole in one, bogeyed the second but birdied three of the next four and started for home with two more.

American Fred Funk, who hired Faldo's former caddie Fanny Sunesson in March when she parted company with Sergio Garcia, also capitalised on the fine early conditions with five birdies in six holes from the fifth after bogeying the 464-yard fourth.

That took him into the lead for a while and then alongside McGinley in second place, but he ran up a six at the long 14th.

Woods, not surprisingly, carried a huge gallery with him when he teed off at 9.30am, but he was out-scored early on by playing partner David Gossett, the current American amateur champion.

Gossett eagled the 568-yard fifth while Woods, off a perfect drive, pushed his second into rough and had to settle for five.

It was an early indication that his game was not quite as well-oiled as it was from start to finish in the US Open at Pebble Beach last month.

He opened with a 65 there and went on to crush the rest by a major championship record 15 strokes.

Lee Westwood, who won his last two tournaments coming into The Open, rammed in a 25-footer for eagle at the fifth but it had followed a bogey on the third and he remained one under after 10.

Colin Montgomerie and defending champion Paul Lawrie - confident that he has recovered from being hit on the left wrist by a youngster he was teaching on Tuesday - were among the later starters, no doubt praying the wind did not pick up.

It was a relief to them and everyone else, though, that Woods had not been able to throw down the gauntlet in the way he did a month ago.

Lee Trevino, competing in what is almost certainly his last Open, had a terrible time, stumbling to an outward 42 and standing seven over after 13 holes and joint last with Swede Fredrik Jacobson, twice a runner-up in recent weeks on the European circuit.

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