The Open: I'm glad I'm not too far behind Rory McIlroy, admits Adam Scott
World number one Adam Scott was delighted to keep Rory McIlroy in his sights after the first round of the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Scott, who squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play at Lytham in 2012, was one of just 13 players in the second half of the field to break par as the wind picked up in the afternoon.
A four-under-par 68 left the former Masters champion just two behind McIlroy, who returned a flawless 66 as the early starters made use of ideal conditions.
"It's important, you've got to keep pace with a guy like Rory," Scott said. "He has the potential to really put his foot down.
"I've seen him shoot lots of low rounds. I don't want him running away (with it). We've seen what happens, he wins Majors by eight shots (in the 2011 US Open and 2012 US PGA). And Martin Kaymer did it just a few weeks ago in the US Open and it makes for a tough weekend when you're that far behind having to force it."
Scott bounced back from his Lytham nightmare to win a green jacket at Augusta last April, but admitted getting his hands on the Claret Jug remained a massive goal.
"This has been a big focus for everyone in my crew this year," added Scott, who also led on the back nine of the final round at Muirfield last year before finishing third.
"We've had our minds obviously on the other Majors, but we felt we've been close the last couple of years in the Open and obviously to win the Claret Jug is such a huge thing. Our mind has been firmly set on Hoylake this year and doing well here."
South African Ernie Els, meanwhile, admits he was badly affected by his opening drive at the Open Championship hitting an elderly spectator in the face.
The double Open champion pulled his tee shot and it caught a fan full on the jaw, causing it to bleed significantly.
The 44-year-old, who went on to finish seven over par after a front nine of 42, with even his drive at the last disrupted by a frog hopping across the tee box.
"There's a bunker on the left and on the practice rounds I was looking to maybe missing it left and that is obviously what I did," said Els.
"It's obviously a dangerous shot and I hit the guy, who was probably in his 60s, right in the face and there was blood everywhere.
"I felt pretty bad about it. I probably should have told the starter to move the people left on the left side, but I didn't do that.
"It was right in the face and you think the worst. Hopefully he's better now, but it wasn't very nice."
* While Louis van Gaal was taking on the pressure of managing Manchester United with his official arrival Press conference at Old Trafford, his predecessor David Moyes was looking rather relaxed as he enjoyed the action at The Open.
Moyes spent plenty of time watching the action on the third fairway and seemed happy to chat with punters and pose for photographs.
On the subject of United, Rory McIlroy was happy to profess his love of the club despite his wariness of his proximity to Liverpool. "I did get terrific support, even though I support Man United," he said after his opening 66. "I heard someone say, 'get a hair cut,' but apart from that the support out there was really great."
As for the new boss, he said: "I think they'll have a good chance to win the league again... I hope."
Selected second round times:
0720 Charley Hoffman, George Coetzee (Rsa), Michael Hoey (N Ireland)
0837 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Jason Day (Aus), Zach Johnson
0904 Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els (Rsa), Bubba Watson
1021 Chesson Hadley, Oliver Fisher (Eng), Shane Lowry (Irl)
1327 Tom Watson, Jim Furyk, Darren Clarke (N Ireland)
1338 Rickie Fowler, Luke Donald (Eng), Sergio Garcia (Spa)
1354 Paul Casey (Eng), Harris English, Matthew Every
1405 Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera (Arg), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
1416 Padraig Harrington (Irl), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), K J Choi (Kor)
1427 Rory McIlroy (N Ireland), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Jordan Spieth 1438 Ian Poulter (Eng), Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker 1449 Graeme McDowell (N Ireland), Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa)