Paul McGinley carded the lowest round of his over-50s career, a six under par 66, on the Old Course at St Andrews as he sits just one shot off the lead after the first round of The Senior Open Presented by Rolex.
The Dubliner sits just behind America’s Kirk Triplett and Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant who each carded seven under par rounds of 65 on the Fife coast.
McGinley, who made his Staysure Tour debut last year, made seven birdies before a solitary bogey on the par four 15th and shares third place with Canada’s Stephen Ames.
“I’ve been playing solid,” said McGinley. “I’ve played two tournaments in Europe this year and I’ve finished in the top ten in both of them. I’m really pleased; playing the Old Course on a day like this is just fabulous.
“Any time you come here, even for a practice round, there’s something magical and mystical about the place. If you love golf and the history, and all it stands for, this is the place to be.”
McGinley made his score over the opening 10 holes of the Old Course with birdies at one, four, five, seven, nine and 10.
He grabbed a seventh birdie at his favourite par-5 in all of golf, the 14th and then dropped his only shot of the round at the par-4 15th.
“I got a good start, and my wedge play was good, getting wedges into 15 feet and less and converted,” he said.
“So, I made hay on the way out and it’s what you’ve got to do if you’re going to shoot a score today you’ve got to do it on the way out and I was really pleased to do that over the first 10 holes.”
This week’s $2m tournament is only McGinley’s fifth this season on either side of the Atlantic as he juggles attending nine events working as a SKY Sports analysist along with corporate and speaking engagements.
“One of the reasons I’m not winning is that I haven’t got down into the mid-sixties in any of my rounds,” he said.
“I’ve posted some good scores in the past but nothing as low as this for quite awhile and while I’d like to play more I have ther commitments.
“I practice a lot when I’m at home, if I’ve a few spare hours among things then I’m hitting balls on the range, I’m chipping and putting, playing money games against the members at Sunningdale, I’m keeping in touch that way and when I get a window in my schedule to play, I do.”
Kirk Triplett, playing in his first Senior Open since 2015, set the clubhouse target of seven under par after a blemish free round on the Old Course.
“It’s really unique over here,” said the American. “When the bounces go your way, it’s really fun. I’m sure at some point this week we’ll find out if I can handle the bad bounces too.
“I have a local caddie this week. I’m really uncertain out there and that’s one of the reasons I wanted a local guy this week.”
Wiratchant, who has won on his last two Staysure Tour starts – the MCB Tour Championship and Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq – made five consecutive birdies from the third to the seventh holes, and then came home in 34 strokes for a round of 65.
“I didn’t think I could play like this on this course, it’s incredible,” said the all-time Asian Tour winner. “I’m not sure which part of my game suits this course because it’s very difficult. But today I was perfect. I only three-putted on two holes, but that’s normal on a course like this.”
In a share of fifth place on five under par are defending champion Bernhard Langer and American pair Scott McCarron and David Toms.
The evergreen Tom Watson delighted the bumper crowds at the Old Course as he shot just one more than his age, 69.
“One of the things I haven’t done for about 20 years is have a scorecard with no fives on it, and I didn’t have a single five on it today,” said the five-time Open Champion. “I had opportunities to make a couple of fives but my long putts were good today and I hit a number of good-quality shots today.”
Nine golfers share eighth place on four under par, including Ryder Cup players Miguel Angel Jiménez, Tom Lehman, Kenny Perry, Phillip Price and Jarmo Sandelin.
Of the other Irish competitors to tee it up this week, Ronan Rafferty carded a level par 72, Brendan McGovern signed for +2 to lie in 84th with Des Smyth on +3 and Eamon Darcy on +4.
Scores after round one:
65 K Triplett (USA) , T Wiratchant (Tha) ,
66 P McGinley (Irl) , S Ames (Can) ,
67 S McCarron (USA) , B Langer (Ger) , D Toms (USA) ,
68 M Atlevi (Swe) , J Sluman (USA) , K Perry (USA) , T Lehman (USA) , V Singh (Fij) , M Jiménez (Esp) , J Sandelin (Swe) , P Price (Wal) , C Dennis (USA) ,
69 S Verplank (USA) , P Archbold (Aus) , J Inman (USA) , G Marks (Eng) , J Daly (USA) , B Mayfair (USA) , S Tinning (Den) , J Durant (USA) , T Watson (USA) , C Lutz (am) (USA) ,
70 B Andrade (USA) , B Jobe (USA) , T Pernice Jnr (USA) , M Mamat (Sin) , T Thelen (USA) , J Maggert (USA) , P Marksaeng (Tha) , K Sutherland (USA) , P Goydos (USA) , W Austin (USA) , M Molina (Arg) , M Ridley (Eng) , D McKenzie (Aus) , J Parnevik (Swe) ,
71 A Oldcorn (Sco) , S Simpson (USA) , S Parel (USA) , G Orr (Sco) , D Olsen (USA) , C Rocca (Ita) , P Broadhurst (Eng) , M Dawson (USA) , F Couples (USA) , C Montgomerie (Sco) , F Quinn (USA) , P Fowler (Aus) , A Bossert (Sui) , L Roberts (USA) , G Koch (USA) , R Maxfield (am) (Eng) ,
72 P Golding (Eng) , D Frost (RSA) , G Sauers (USA) , B Lane (Eng) , G Wolstenholme (Eng) , P Oakley (USA) , M Goodes (USA) , J Kingston (RSA) , P Wesselingh (Eng) , C Pavin (USA) , R Rafferty (Nir) , S Dodd (Wal) , R Cochran (USA) , M Brooks (USA) ,
73 T Petrovic (USA) , S Luna (Esp) , M Martin (Esp) , J Remesy (Fra) , V Casado (Esp) , L Mize (USA) , S Dunlap (USA) , R Chapman (Eng) , P Lonard (Aus) , S Lyle (Sco) , S Brown (Eng) , J Van De Velde (Fra) , M Brier (Aut) ,
74 T Yoneyama (Jpn) , B Vaughan (USA) , D Waldorf (USA) , J Kelly (USA) , S Flesch (USA) , P Baker (Eng) , B McGovern (Irl) , S McRoy (USA) , M San Filippo (USA) , D Shacklady (Eng) , M Calcavecchia (USA) , P Eales (Eng) ,
75 C Monasterio (Arg) , P Linhart (Esp) , J Cheetham (Eng) , J Pate (USA) , D Smyth (Irl) , B Estes (USA) , J Lomas (Eng) , A Forsbrand (Swe) , C Lu (Tpe) , A Franco (Par) , R Gamez (USA) , G Day (USA) ,
76 P O’Malley (Aus) , W Short Jr (USA) , E Darcy (Irl) , B Ford (USA) , M Harwood (Aus) , S Faldo (Eng) , H Simonsen (Den) , B Faxon (USA) , M Mouland (Wal) , A Rosa (Esp) , D Gilford (Eng) , G Turner (Nzl) , C Williams (RSA) , M Dornell (am) (Swe) ,
77 B Chamblee (USA) , H Irwin (USA) , R Burns (USA) , D Mills (Eng) , M James (Eng) , N Sugai (Jpn) , R Gomez (Arg) , M McNulty (Irl) , R Howison (am) (USA) , G Lacy (am) (Eng) , G Elliott (am) (USA) ,
78 J Rivero (Esp) , D Kestner (USA) , V Fernandez (Arg) , G Brand Jnr (Sco) , M McCoy (am) (USA) ,
79 P Mitchell (Eng) , T Tolles (USA) , B Breen (USA) , B Hughes (am) (Eng) ,
80 S Strüver (Ger) ,
81 T Hamilton (USA) ,
** I Woosnam (Wal)