Goosen shares clubhouse lead

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Retief Goosen, the man who questioned the extent of Tiger Woods' knee injury at the US Open, could benefit the most in his absence from the Open Championship.

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Goosen defied the wind and rain which lashed Royal Birkdale today to card an opening round of 71, one over par, to share the clubhouse lead with Canada's former Masters champion Mike Weir.

Australian Adam Scott was setting the pace out on the course, the world number four was one under par after 12 holes with Sweden's Peter Hanson alongside him after eight holes.

Goosen, the two-time US Open champion, played alongside defending champion Padraig Harrington, who had been doubtful with a wrist injury but battled to a 74, and, in a thinly-veiled reference to Woods, was inevitably asked if the Irishman was "making the most of his injury".

Goosen, who said his comments about Woods were "light-hearted", played a straight bat to the question, complementing Harrington on a "great round of golf".

And as for his own round, the South African revealed it had been achieved with the minimum amount of preparation.

"I woke up at 2am from the sound of the rain," said the 39-year-old. "My tee-time was just before 8am and I got to the range at 7am but it was too cold and wet.

"I couldn't hit the ball so I hung around in the TaylorMade van for a while, eventually had to brave it, went out there and hit about 20 balls, hit a few balls and then went.

"I got here about 1.30pm on Wednesday and played 18 holes and I think it was a pretty good move. It was similar conditions yesterday so I figured I don't want to play in this sort of weather too much."

Those sentiments were undoubtedly shared by all the morning starters who got the worst of the weather, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els among those blown off course.

Mickelson lost a ball on the sixth on his way to a triple-bogey seven and a round of 79, while Els dropped seven shots in the last five holes to crash to an 80, his worst ever score in 67 rounds in the Open.

Els declined to speak to waiting reporters after his round but world number two Mickelson insisted he was not out of contention, adding: "It's not fun for anybody.

"When you shoot 79 on the first day you've got to come back with something pretty cool to get back into it. If I can shoot something around par tomorrow I should be okay."

Vijay Singh also carded an 80 on a day he described as "miserable, miserable, miserable", while Paul Casey failed to register a single birdie in his 78 and 1985 winner Sandy Lyle quit after playing 10 holes in 11 over par.

Lee Westwood did play the back nine in 35, one under par, but had struggled to the turn in 40 and had to settle for a 75 caused mainly by three-putting four times.

There was some better news for home fans however, Ian Poulter showing what was possible on the closing stretch by picking up birdies at the 15th and 17th in his 72, while Colin Montgomerie was only a shot worse off.

Harrington was a shot further back on four over and said: "I'm happy to have played. I battled well through the first 16 holes and thought the hard work was done. With the last two holes being downwind it was a poor finish to end with two bogeys.

"I didn't have any problems with the wrist on the course but felt a few twinges of pain warming up. But I've got another day to rest and I'm quite happy. I've not played myself out of the tournament."

At 5.35pm, after just over 11 hours' of play, Scott became the first player to reach two under par when he birdied the 15th by two-putting from long range.

That came just seconds after Rocco Mediate had set the clubhouse target on one under, the man who pushed Woods to the 19th extra hole at Torrey Pines finishing with three birdies in the last six holes for a round of 69.

Also on one under after just four holes was qualifier Peter Appleyard, the 30-year-old from Kent being the last man to tee-off today and in danger of failing to finish before darkness.

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