Royal Birkdale's first hole a rude awakening for Open hopefuls

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Royal Birkdale's first hole provided Open Championship hopefuls with a rude awakening as the links course showed its true colours on Thursday morning.

The conditions for the early starters in Southport were abysmal, with rain hammering down and tricky winds making scoring tough.

Mark O'Meara found that out the hard way as his opening tee shot at the tournament he won in 1998 on the same course went out of bounds en route to a quadruple-bogey eight for the American.

Playing partner Ryan Moore escaped with a six and there was only one group in the first eight that stepped onto the second tee with all three unscathed.

It was not until the ninth trio went out at 8:03am local time - almost 90 minutes after O'Meara, who was nine over at the turn, had kicked it all off - that the first saw its maiden birdie, with Alex Noren the man to card it.

But that did not mean the danger was over, as Kim Kyung-tae posted a seven in the next group to raise the hole's average score climbed higher still.

Birkdale is set to enjoy sunshine and intermittent cloud cover for the remainder of the day, with the moderate winds easing by the afternoon.