Nobody goes low here - O'Meara underlines Birkdale challenge

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Mark O'Meara won The Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998 with an even-par aggregate score and fully expects a similar total to prove competitive this week.

Making his final Open appearance, the 60-year-old American was given the honour of hitting the tournament's first shot on Thursday, in tough conditions as rain swirled around England's north-west coast.

O'Meara went out of bounds off the tee, duly carded an eight on the opening hole and eventually signed for an 81, having been nine over at the turn.

While he acknowledges much better scores will be possible, as illustrated by Stuart Manley claiming the early clubhouse lead with a 68, O'Meara feels anything under par will represent a fine effort.

"The thing about Birkdale, even when the weather is a little bit trying - and I've seen it way, way worse than this - you can still get around, which I think shows the quality of the golf course," said the veteran.

"There'll be some decent scores. Anything in the red will be a decent score out there today. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody shoots three or four, maybe even five under par. It's possible. 

"Birkdale's kind of showing its teeth out there a little bit. If it continues to blow through the weekend and the weather is on and off, even par has always been a good score around here.

"Nobody goes low here, nobody shoots eight, nine, 10 under par. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but anybody who is close to par come the last day is going to have a chance."

The affable O'Meara described his first-day performance as "very disappointing", but was still able to smile as he discussed his struggles on the first.

"I would have thought I would've been more nervous, but I was not pleased when I hit that [tee] shot. I don't think anybody would be," he added.

"My name is on my golf bag, I've won the Open Championship, I'm in the Hall of Fame. When you hit one straight right off the first tee out of bounds, it would be like standing on the first tee on the Ballybunion and hitting the graveyard. My day was toast after that first tee shot. But I still had to play.

"At one point I felt like I was going to shoot 90 out there. I shot 81, so be it. It's not like I haven't shot 81 in my life.

"I don't care if you're 30, 40, 50, 60, whatever age you are, you really play a lot for your pride. And I'm not very proud of what I accomplished out there today. I should have played better. I expect better."