Former Open champion Paul Lawrie gets action under way at St Andrews

The 53-year-old teed off on Thursday morning.

Former champion Paul Lawrie got the action under way as the 150th Open Championship begins at St Andrews.

The Scot, who won the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, was given the honour of teeing off first on the Old Course for the second after starting the event in 2010.

The 53-year-old was first off at 6.35am in cool conditions in Fife.

A prevailing wind from the west meant most of the outward nine was into the breeze but it was not strong enough to cause any issues for the early starters.

Lawrie and his playing partners Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion, and Min-Woo Lee all made par at the 355-yard first but the Scot three-putted the next for a bogey and finished two over.

The Aberdonian believes his end score was “a wee bit harsh” but will looking to finish under par on Friday to keep his chances alive.

Speaking afterwards Lawrie said: “I normally like watching the game from tee off and I always get to the tee really early my whole career, but of course I couldn’t do that this morning as there wasn’t anyone there.

“I hit a nice shot, I got a good swing on it and off it went down the fairway.

“I thought the pins were tough, and I think they have to do that, if they don’t do that I think it would be an early birdie-fest, and even with that I think it will still be pretty good scoring.

“I thought the course was very good, the fairways are very hard but that’s what you want.

“I felt two over was harsh today, I thought I did a little better than that, didn’t do much wrong. Even the fourth hole, I made a double there and I hit a really nice tee shot but it just didn’t quite get through the rough and another couple of occasions I hit nice shot but they bogeyed, both from good shots, so I thought two over was a wee bit harsh.

“Overall I will need to be under par tomorrow now to have any chance but we will see what happens.”

Rory McIlroy, the 2014 champion and one of the favourites this week, said he was expecting St Andrews to play tough and get tougher.

He said: “I think with the condition of the golf course, with a little bit of breeze, you can bomb it around here and hit driver and get it close to the greens, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make birdies from those positions.”

“I just think with the way the golf course is playing and how firm and fast it is, it’s just going to get super tricky by the end of the week.”

Tiger Woods, a two-time Open winner at St Andrews, was an afternoon starter alongside newly-crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, and Max Homa.

Meanwhile LIV Golf rebel Ian Poulter was booed on the first tee.

The 46-year-old is one of 24 players in the field who have signed up to the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway series and was the first of those to go out in the morning.

Poulter’s response was almost to miss the widest fairway in golf with his mid-iron heading well left across the 18th fairway.

His ball finished just a couple of yards short of the out of bounds line which borders The Links road on the fringe of the course.

Poulter produced a good recovery, however, and made par at the 355-yard first.

On the eve of the tournament R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers insisted banning LIV Golf rebels from next year’s Open is “not on the agenda”, but has not ruled out changing the championship’s entry criteria.

In a surprisingly strongly-worded statement before taking questions in his traditional pre-tournament press conference, Slumbers said the Saudi-funded breakaway was “entirely driven by money” and not in the “best long-term interests of the game”.

The PGA Tour has suspended members who have competed in the breakaway without permission, while the DP World Tour fined players £100,000 and banned them from last week’s Genesis Scottish Open, but saw that temporarily stayed on appeal.

The R&A announced last month LIV players who were exempt for the Open would be allowed to compete at St Andrews, following the stance taken by the USGA in relation to the US Open.

But USGA chief executive Mike Whan did admit he could foresee it becoming harder for LIV players to qualify in the future, a view echoed by Slumbers.

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