Former Open champion Darren Clarke believes the statistics behind his opening round of The Open Championship didn't tell the full story of his day at Royal St George's after opening his tournament with a one-over-par 71.
The 52-year-old, in his first round at the Kent course since his triumph at the 2011 Open, carded two birdies and three bogeys on the way to his 71 at Sandwich, leaving him seven shots off the early lead held by South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen.
Clarke started his day with a bogey at his opening hole but he turned in level-par after a birdie at the seventh, only to drop shots at the 10th and 13th following wayward drives which took him back over par again.
A birdie at the par-five 14th after a nice sand save repaired some of the damage but, with scoring low on the opening day of the final Major of the year, it is likely the Dungannon man will have to shoot something in the mid-60s in Friday's second round just to make the cut.
"I actually hit the ball pretty nicely but I missed a couple of fairways by two inches and all of a sudden when you're in that (rough), you're trying to run the ball up or you're aiming away from flags to not make any stupid mistakes," said Clarke.
"Consequently, my stats may have been somewhat misleading today, frequently that's what will happen on links golf. But overall I was quite pleased with the way I actually hit the ball and the way I played.
"The reception I got on the first tee and the first fairway all the way around and walking up the last with the people applauding, the Open Championship is always special to play in. It's even more special to win it and it's even more special to come back to the place where you've won it at before.
"The crowds were really, really kind and generous with me today, so it was a pleasure to be out there playing today."
Oosthuizen took the early lead with his best career round in a Major with his six-under 64, which also tied the lowest opening round from anybody at an Open at Royal St George's, as he opened up a one-shot advantage over Brian Harman and three-time Major champion Jordan Spieth.
The South African, who won the 2010 Open, is trying to turn a phenomenal run of form at Majors into only his second victory in one of golf's four elite events having recorded nine top-10 finishes - five of which have been as runner-up - since that victory 11 years ago at St Andrews.
Amazingly, Oosthuizen started with seven straight pars before picking up all six of his birdies in the next eight holes to record the best round of the morning starters, and he revealed a patient approach was what helped him to his sensational early score.
"I've learnt over the years playing Major championships that patience is the key thing and, even if you make bogeys, know that a lot of people are going to make bogeys," said the 38-year-old, whose most recent runner-up at a Major was at the US Open at Torrey Pines last month.
"I was just very patient. I was trying to just hit my shots and didn't really hit anything close enough to make birdies those first few holes, and then all of a sudden just made two good putts on eight and nine and got the ball rolling. It happened quickly, but you still need to put yourself in those positions, and I felt definitely the last 10, 11 holes I gave myself a lot of opportunities."
Spieth, meanwhile, opened up his bid to win a second Open Championship with an impressive five-under 65 after six birdies and just a solitary bogey at Royal St George's, which matches his lowest career round at the tournament.
The American, who has roared back into form this season after several tough years, is adept at links golf having won in 2017 and having added two more top-10 finishes at the event, but hasn't recorded a Major victory since his success at Royal Birkdale four years ago.
When asked why he performs well at The Open, even when he hasn't had form coming into the event, Spieth claimed: "I think it brings a lot of the feel aspect into the game. I think I shorten swings up over here and hit more punch shots and just stuff that I probably should be doing at home.
"You get less swing-focused and more shot-focused over here because the second you take your brain off of what you're hitting, you may not find your ball.
"Instead of just a driving range shot in Palm Springs, there's always some shot you have to play that gives you a little bit of an advantage or certain club selections based on you hit a fade or a draw; they go 15 to 20 yards different distances than between which shot you play.
"I guess to sum that up, there's a lot of external factors over here, and I think that external is where I need to be living."
It wasn't such a great day for defending champion Shane Lowry, however, as the Offaly man carded a one-over 71 while playing alongside Oosthuizen in his opening round, describing his performance as simply "average" compared to the South African's.
Lowry, who dominated the field at Royal Portrush two years ago, had four bogeys and three birdies on Thursday but a closing bogey means he, like Clarke, will likely need a big round on Friday just to stick around for the weekend let alone have a realistic chance at retaining the Claret Jug.
"I'd say I played pretty average. I didn't play my best golf. But, then again, you're playing with Louis who's shooting six-under and playing great. It kind of makes you feel probably a little bit different," admitted Lowry.
"Disappointed to bogey the last. I think if I would have parred the last and shot level-par, I would have been quite happy with myself going home this afternoon, but I didn't. I got an unfortunate bounce and went into the bunker and made bogey.
"But I battled hard. I was quite proud of myself. On to tomorrow."
While Clarke's hopes of becoming the oldest winner of The Open took a hit on day one, 48-year-old Stewart Cink started well in his bid to eclipse 46-year-old Old Tom Morris' 143-year record after a four-under 66 saw him share fourth place with Canada's Mackenzie Hughes and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli and the USA's Stewart Cink.
Andy Sullivan had set the early clubhouse mark at three-under after a fine round of 67 in the first group of the tournament, which was later tied by three more Englishmen in Danny Willett, Jack Senior and Justin Rose, as well as South Africa's Justin Harding, before Oosthuizen beat them all.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson, who finished runner-up to Clarke in 2011, opened with a two-under 68, with Brooks Koepka a shot further back after a 69 and Jon Rahm at one-over after a 71, while Bryson DeChambeau admitted he struggled with his driver after firing the same score as the Spaniard.
"If I can hit it down the middle of the fairway, that's great, but with the driver right now, the driver sucks," blasted the big-hitting American. "It's not a good face for me and we're still trying to figure out how to make it good on the mis-hits. I'm living on the razor's edge like I've told people for a long time."
Rory McIlroy teed off his opening round at 3:21pm alongside former Masters champion Patrick Reed and Australia's Cameron Smith, looking to card something in the 60s to put himself in the mix after the first round.