Matt Dunham, Associated Press
Draper's Mike Weir plays an iron from the 4th tee during Thursday's first round of the British Open in Southport, England. He is 2 strokes behind the leaders.

SOUTHPORT, England — To Mike Weir it felt like a 5-under-par round, even if it showed as a 1-over-par 71 on his scorecard.

In the opening round of the Open Championship, as they call it here, the Draper resident fought fierce winds and rain in the morning and overcame a lost ball at the 16th hole to post his 71 at Royal Birkdale. That puts him very much in contention in a tie for seventh place after 18 holes of golf's third major of the year.

"I'd say that felt like about a 5-under-par round," Weir said. "I hit a lot of 3-irons, 3-woods and rescue clubs, just all the artillery in the bag today. You needed it."

Weir teed off just before 10 a.m. local time when conditions were awful, with strong winds from the northwest and a driving rain that required players and caddies to put on a few layers of clothing. When he finished he was tied for the clubhouse lead with Retief Goosen and the players who passed them up played later in the day when the weather wasn't so brutal.

"I would have definitely taken a 1-over par given the weather we had when we started," Weir said. "The wind was just as strong as I've ever seen. ... It's tough to make a swing when it's blowing that hard and tough to keep your form. It got a bit better as the back nine went on with the rain stopping."

After teeing off under such terrible conditions, Weir was happy to stand even par after five holes, but he ran into trouble at the 499-yard par-4 No. 6 hole. Hitting into the wind, he hit his third shot into a bunker, got out and two-putted for a double bogey.

He made the turn at 2-over and got up and down a couple of times, including at the par-3 12th when his tee shot went left into the crowd on a hill. He came back with a nice birdie at the next hole to get back to 1-over and just missed birdie tries at the next two holes.

Then at the par-4 16th he hit his drive right and despite several volunteers searching for the ball, it was never found in the deep grass and he had to go back to the tee to hit another drive, minus two strokes.

Weir carded a double bogey, but made up for it on the next hole with a brilliant eagle at the 572-yard par-5 17th. He hit a great drive more than 300 yards downwind and his 5-iron from 235 yards rolled up the narrow green up the hill to the upper level of the undulating green. From there, he rolled in a 12-foot putt for eagle to get back to 1-over on the day.

"I had two blips on the card," Weir said. "But a highlight obviously was on 17. It was a good way to finish."

Weir's eagle at 17 was just one of two all day at Royal Birkdale — Frenchman Gregory Havret, who also shot 71, had the other.

For today's second round, Weir will tee off at 7:42 a.m. MDT, which is 2:42 p.m. local time. It's anybody's guess what the weather will be like then. He'll get done about an hour before sunset.

"I remember watching plenty of British Opens where guys had been struggling early and then the sun comes out and you have good scoring conditions," he said. "Sometimes you get lucky."

Weir is playing in his 10th straight British Open. He has made the cut every year except two with his best finish coming last year at Carnoustie when he tied for 8th place, four shots behind winner Padraig Harrington. His best opening round came in 2006 at Royal Liverpool when he opened with a 68 before fading to a tie for 56th.


First round

Rocco Mediate 69

Graeme McDowell 69

Robert Allenby 69


Greg Norman 70

Mike Weir 71

Sergio Garcia 72

Phil Mickelson 79

Ernie Els 80

E-mail: [email protected]