Aussie Lee suffers on Open golf debut

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The British Open has roared back into life, with Royal St George's baring its teeth to provide a chastening lesson for Australia's rising golf star Min Woo Lee.

Plenty of others, though, were making hay in relatively favourable conditions on Thursday's sun-bathed opening morning of the 149th edition, with former champions Louis Oosthuizen, at six-under par, and Jordan Spieth, one behind, giving the top of the early leaderboard a comforting heavyweight feel.

The increasingly breezy conditions eventually took their toll on debutant Lee, fresh from his breakthrough Scottish Open triumph last week, as the 22-year-old from Perth saw what looked to be a promising round ruined by a triple-bogey seven at the 15th.

Another bogey at the last saw Lee, who had gone into his first-ever major saying how "pumped" he was, feeling hugely deflated as he had to sign for a four-over par 74, one of the worst scores among the early finishers.

After its much-lamented absence from the golf calendar last year amid the pandemic, 32,000 fans had descended on Sandwich Bay to enjoy the start of the rearranged edition on Thursday.

And Lee, younger brother of LPGA star Minjee Lee, applauded the way they had supported him when calamity struck at the par-four 15th as his tee shot found the punishing rough, he failed to hack out, crashed another shot into more hay and eventually found a bunker.

"I think for my first major I handled myself pretty good other than that one hole," he shrugged.

"On the last hole I was mentally drained but the crowds are awesome. I love thriving off them. Claps on every hole even though I made triple bogey. They know it's a tough sport and they clap. True fans out here."

Lee, the first Australian in action, knows he has his work cut out to make the cut on Friday but is still confident that he could produce the 66 that would probably guarantee his weekend spot.

Lucas Herbert, another recent Australian winner on the European Tour at the Irish Open, made a splendid recovery from a dismal start which saw him make a double-bogey six on the opening hole and limp to three-over by the turn.

He then produced four birdies in five holes from the 10th and was level par with a couple of holes to play.

The 11 Aussies here at Sandwich are trying to bring back the Claret Jug for the first time since Greg Norman won on the same Kentish links in magnificent fashion in 1993.

But there were early problems for Jason Day, the former world No.1 who'd dropped three shots in his first five holes.

There was no such trouble for the 2017 champion Spieth who continued his impressive return to top form this season with an opening 65 which, after a dropped shot at the third, saw him reel off four straight birdies from the fifth and a couple more on the inward stretch for a 65.

But it was the in-form South African Oosthuizen, winner in 2010 and runner-up at both the recent US PGA and US Open, who was setting the pace, edging past the American with six birdies in a flawless round with just one hole left.

Spieth's US colleague Brian Harman also shot 65, while another previous champ Stewart Cink was at four-under with two holes left, alongside Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and South African Dylan Frittelli, who both took route 66.

In the first round of their latest potential US ding-dong, Brooks Koepka, who finished at one-under, outpointed his feud-buddy Bryson DeChambeau, who ended with a disappointing one-over 71.

Neither looked particularly happy about not being able to deliver a knock-out round.

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