McDowell makes bold opening statement

For the second time in three years Graeme McDowell held the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Open Championship yesterday; yet this time around the Ulsterman appears so much more likely to retain this coveted position. Last week's Scottish Open victor is in the form of his golfing life and playing in the conditions that formulated his golfing life. McDowell is clearly partial to a bit of wind. Almost as partial as Royal Birkdale.

Click here for the latest leaderboard and statistics

This was a torrid opening day at the Southport links, when each and every one of the 156 competitors had at least one bogey on their card. McDowell and his fellow early pacesetters, Rocco Mediate and Robert Allenby, took full advantage of going out in the best of the weather to record one-under 69s. In behind them on level par was a group including Greg Norman.

In many respects the veteran's jaunt down memory fairway was the biggest news; especially when put alongside the disgraceful actions of Sandy Lyle – three years Norman's junior – who walked off after just 10 holes. In contrast, Norman battened down the hatches and fought on to a remarkable 70. The 53-year-old has not played in an Open for three years, any other major for five years, and is only here to warm up for next week's Senior Open at Troon. After this wintry experience Norman can hardly claim to be warm. But boy, does his game still sizzle

So, too, does that of McDowell. The pride of Portrush revealed he ventured out with a game plan "to treat every 18 holes as a series of little challenges where par would be a great score". In the event the 28-year-old notched up 15 of them with just the one bogey on the almost impossible sixth and two birdies downwind to finish. "I feel like a different player now to two years ago," said McDowell, who has already cemented his position in September's Ryder Cup. "I was a rabbit in the headlights at Hoylake. Then I didn't have a lot of belief in my game, couldn't string four rounds together. Now I know I can."

Mediate has also enjoyed a recent rocket to his confidence. At the US Open last month, the 45-year-old took Tiger Woods to sudden death in an 18-hole play-off and proceeded to become America's grinning hero. Yesterday the Pennsylvanian was at it again, overcoming a sluggish start with incredible panache and positivity.

To play the last 13 holes here in four-under was a feat that amazed everyone, particularly considering the back condition he suffers that requires a following physio to snap it back in during his round. Mediate is a popular character in the locker room and congratulations carried on coming to him, McDowell and the Aussie Allenby long into the night. At the same time, some of his playing pals quietly informed Rocco how fortunate he had been. They say the scoreboard never lies. Fair enough. But on topsy-turvy days such as this it does not begin to tell the whole story. To comment that the morning starters received the rough end of the draw was like labelling the conditions that greeted those poor dolts as "inclement". They were forced to play through a consistent downpour and high winds and then suffered the further torture of watching the rains disappear and the gusts drop markedly.

At the very least there was a two-shot difference, although some of the most affected professionals were inevitably claiming it to be more. Ernie Els and Vijay Singh shot 80s, while Phil Mickelson, the acting world No 1 in the absence of Woods, slumped to a 79.

It was Els' worst score in 19 years of playing in his favourite major by four shots. The South African's shell-shocked expression summed up an opening morning that ranks right up there with the most difficult of them in 137 years of the Open.

Not everyone on the early shift played their way out of the tournament. Retief Goosen conjured a one-over 71 that seemed destined to take the first-day honours until the golfing gods took their finger off the carnage button. For the home crowd, Ian Poulter fired a courageous 72, while Colin Montgomerie put a lifetime of despising anything stronger than a breeze behind him with a 73. But on looking at the brightening sky the experienced Scot knew the significance.

"We've had the worst of the weather, no doubt about it," declared Montgomerie. "When you come here, you pray that the Open is fair at least, so let's hope tomorrow follows a similar path weather-wise. Let's hope we afternoon starters get a decent run at it. But he's in charge."

As Monty spoke he pointed to the sky. Well, it made a change from blaming the Royal and Ancient. The venerable organisers were inevitably going to take some flak as the bitter professionals peered down the horror of their numbers. None of them laid in quite like Jerry Kelly, a man for whom the phrase "whingeing American" seems invented.

"This is the worse set-up I've ever seen," raged the Wisconsinite following an 83. "I couldn't even reach four of the fairways off the tees. They knew this weather was coming yesterday and should have used common sense – they didn't."

Kelly's contention was that the R&A should have moved the tees forward to make the three hardest par-fours – the sixth, 11th and 16th – shorter. Yet as Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, later explained, it was not quite as easy as that. Reaching the fairways on the sixth and the 16th was not a problem to most, while there is not another tee to use on the 11th.

"It was a tough day by the seaside," was Dawson's appraisal, although he warned it could get even tougher. Today will witness more of the same – sorry Monty, but there will probably be no respite – while on Saturday there is, in Dawson's words "a 50-50 chance of winds of more than 45mph. If it was that colossal and balls were moving on the greens, we may have to suspend play," he added with a wince. The fun has only just begun.

Tee-off times for today's second round

(GB or Irl unless stated)

06.30 J van de Velde (Fr), S Webster, A Tampion (Aus)

06.41 P Walton, D Smail (NZ), M Letzig (US)

06.52 P Waring, H Otto (SA), K Stadler (US)

07.03 Paul Lawrie, R Mediate (US), A Cabrera (Arg)

07.14 N Fasth (Swe), M O'Meara (US), M Campbell (NZ)

07.25 G McDowell, R Sabbatini (SA), T Hamilton (US)

07.36 J Furyk (US), N Dougherty, C Villegas (Col)

07.47 R Karlsson (Swe), G Norman (Aus), W Austin (US)

07.58 R Allenby (Aus), S Stricker (US), *B Herbert (Fr)

08.09 A Scott (Aus), Z Johnson (US), P Larrazabal (Sp)

08.20 G Havret (Fr), T Clark (SA), S Cink (US)

08.31 Wen-chong Liang (Ch), F Jacobson (Swe), J Overton (US)

08.42 T Immelman (SA), S Hansen (Den), A Kim (US)

08.58 M A Jimenez (Sp), S Ames (Can), C Howell III (US)

09.09 P Hanson (Swe), B Bryant (US), R Pampling (Aus)

09.20 R Imada (Japan), S Garcia (Sp), S O'Hair (US)

09.31 S Appleby (Aus), B Snedeker (US), R Fisher

09.42 A Yano (Japan), J Edfors (Swe), T Lehman (US)

09.53 S Wakefield, J Williamson (US), J Kingston (SA)

10.04 G Bourdy (Fr), D Chia (Malay), J Rollins (US)

10.15 P Marksaeng (Thai), *C Wood, S McCarron (US)

10.26 A Wall, A Noren (Swe), E Porter (Aus)

10.37 P Baker, H Iwata (Japan), A Cejka (Ger)

10.48 D Labelle (US), Chih-bing Lam (Sing), J-F Lima (Por)

10.59 M Wiegele (Aut), A Que (Phil), D McGuigan

11.10 J Lomas, Y Tsukada (Japan), P Appleyard

11.41 L Glover (US), C Parry (Aus), S Dyson

11.52 J-B Gonnet (Fr), P Perez (US), P Fowler (Aus)

12.03 S Kjeldsen (Den), B Jones (Aus), M Kuchar (US)

12.14 J Kelly (US), D Fichardt (SA), D McGrane

12.25 G Storm, S Strange (Aus)

12.36 R Green (Aus), M Calcavecchia (US), A Hansen (Den)

12.47 T Watson (US), J Rose, A Baddeley (Aus)

12.58 G Ogilvy (Aus), O Wilson, D Love III (US)

13.09 R Goosen (SA), P Harrington, J Leonard (US)

13.20 R Sterne (SA), H Stenson (Swe), J Quinney (US)

13.31 H Mahan (US), V Singh (Fiji), *R Saxton (Neth)

13.42 M Kaymer (Ger), S Verplank (US), E Els (SA)

13.53 D Howell, A Romero (Arg), J B Holmes (US)

14.09 L Westwood, K J Choi (S Kor), B Curtis (US)

14.20 N O'Hern (Aus), I Poulter, P Goydos (US)

14.31 P Mickelson (US), H Tanihara (Japan), P Casey

14.42 B Weekley (US), C Montgomerie, M Weir (Can)

14.53 H Slocum (US), R Finch, J Daly (US)

15.04 D Duval (US), S Khan, D Frost (SA)

15.15 R Beem (US), P Edberg (Swe), *T Sherreard

15.26 M Matsumura (Japan), T Gillis (US), B Hume

15.37 S Kai (Japan), T Petrovic (US), D Horsey

15.48 A Canete (Arg), C Barlow (US), P Archer

15.59 J Elson, *R Blizard (Aus), J Bevan

16.10 A Blyth (Aus), J Howarth, J Cunliffe (SA)

16.21 T Aiken (SA), G Boyd, B Lamb (Aus)

* denotes amateur

TV Times

Live: BBC 2 09.00-19.15.

Highlights: Today at the Open, BBC 2 19.15-20.00.

Weather

Cloudy with further spells of rain or drizzle, especially at first. Minimum temperature 13C, maximum 17C. Moderate to fresh west to south-west breezes (15-20mph).

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit