Wilson survives 'jitters' to take early lead in amateur stakes

Stuart Wilson, of Scotland, will be back behind the counter at Auchterlonies golf shop on Monday morning regardless of his performance in the Open championship.

Stuart Wilson, of Scotland, will be back behind the counter at Auchterlonies golf shop on Monday morning regardless of his performance in the Open championship.

Wilson leads the battle for the silver medal awarded to the leading amateur after a superb first-round 68 at Troon left him just two shots off the lead.

The newly-crowned British Amateur champion will celebrate his 27th birthday on Sunday but was refusing to think too far ahead, despite outscoring Tiger Woods by two shots, US Masters champion Phil Mickelson by five and Ernie Els by one.

"It's a 72-hole tournament and we've only played 18," said Wilson, who would love to follow in the footsteps of fellow Scot Barclay Howard, who was leading amateur the last time the Open was played here in 1997.

"There's a lot of golf to be played," he said, "but it's nice to see your name up on the board.

"It brought a smile to my face when I holed that putt on the seventh to be one off the lead but it was a bit of a jittery putt on the eighth when I thought I could be tied for the lead.

"There was a really nice atmosphere playing with Mark O'Meara and Michael Campbell, they were tremendous."

Wilson, who missed the cut with two rounds of 79 in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond last week, was briefly a professional in the late 1990s before being reinstated as an amateur in 1999.

He refuses to rule out a return to the professional ranks but on Monday at least expects to be working in the shop at Monifieth. "Bright and breezy, 9am Monday morning," he added.

"It's a case of never say never about turning professional. I'm playing quite well but I've got a long way to go to improve it.

"And obviously being Amateur champion there's a lot of opportunities coming my way [including playing in next year's US Masters]. Maybe at the tail end of next year I'll see and reconsider."

Wilson will not have it all his own way in the amateur battle, however. Kent's Steven Tiley posted a level-par 71 and the US Amateur champion Nick Flanagan shot a 72.

Tiley tried to qualify for Sandwich last year at his home course of Royal Cinque Ports, but after an opening round of 67 collapsed to a second-round 80 to miss out.

This year he shot 67 again in the first round of final qualifying and then spoke to the 2003 US Open champion Jim Furyk in the clubhouse at Turnberry to get some tips on how to handle the pressure before shooting a second-round 70 to qualify.

The 21-year-old recorded two birdies and two bogeys today while Flanagan recovered from a double-bogey six on the third in his 72.

Meanwhile, Tom Weiskopf, the 61-year-old who won the 1973 Open here, began what will be his last competitive event with a quadruple-bogey eight.

The American needed four attempts to get out of a greenside bunker, a trap he described later as "perfectly designed - just big enough for an angry man with a club."

Weiskopf, who finished with a nine-over-par 80, had already decided that this would be his farewell not only to the Open, but also to tournament golf.

He said: "I realise I don't have much of a game now. But it's been terrific and I've been really enjoying myself this week. I have my son caddying for me and I was able to practise with Tiger [Woods], Vijay [Singh], Jim Furyk and Nick Price."

He was partnering the 1985 winner Sandy Lyle, who commented of that opening eight: "He may be 6ft 5in, but he was digging so big a hole in the sand that he was disappearing at one stage."

Weiskopf said: "When I saw the ball up against the lip I knew I had no shot. I couldn't even get a backswing if I turned backwards. The smart thing was probably to take a penalty drop. I knew, though, that that would plug and so I had a go. Then another and another and another. I was lucky - the second attempt nearly hit me."

Meanwhile, KJ Choi's plan to stay out of the bunkers proved fruitful as he shot a three-under-par 68.

"Me and my caddie Andy Prodger decided to take it very patiently and luckily the weather was on my side because it was very calm and I think that helped me perform very well," the South Korean said. "I'm very happy because this was the first time I have been under par in the Open first round."

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