America's Phil Mickelson admitted he felt like crying after agonisingly missing out on carding the lowest ever score in Major championship history on a bittersweet opening day of the Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Five-time Major winner Mickelson, who won the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013, needed to hole a 15-foot putt on the 18th to card a nine-under-par 62 and seal a place in the record books, only for his ball to catch the lip of the hole and stay out.
The 46-year-old had to be content with a flawless 63, the joint-lowest round in Major championship history, which gave him a three-shot lead over fellow countryman Patrick Reed and Martin Kaymer of Germany.
“This was pretty heartbreaking,” said left-hander Mickelson, who is on course to become the fourth oldest Major champion and the oldest at the Open since Old Tom Morris in 1867.
“I had this right in the centre of the hole with a foot to go and it was perfect speed. I don’t understand what happened. It moved, I don’t understand.
“To have played this round and walk away feeling like I want to cry is a very awkward feeling.”
Defending champion Zach Johnson was among a horde on four under, a group which included England’s Andrew Sullivan, while Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia were all a further stroke behind.
“The score didn’t really reflect how well I played,” said Rose, who finished in the top-10 at last year’s Open. “Typical me, playing the back nine in fewer shots than the front nine. But I’m certainly happy with the start.”
Former world No1 Rory McIlroy was four under at the turn but double-bogeyed the 13th and finished two under after posting a round of 69. Welshman Jamie Donaldson and England’s Andrew Johnston did likewise.
“You really need to make hay on the front nine with a lot of these holes playing downwind,” said McIlroy. “I knew that was where the majority of the scores were going to come from.
“Thankfully, after getting off to a pretty slow start I was able to make a run of birdies there and finish the front nine pretty well. Then on the back nine, it was very difficult.”
Pre-tournament favourite and US Open champion Dustin Johnson started with a level par 71, as did two-time Major winner Jordan Spieth, Masters winner Danny Willett and fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood, Robert Rock, Ross Fisher and Matthew Southgate.
World No1 Jason Day, who admitted to having problems with his swing, posted a first round score of two over. He said: “Every time I hit an iron I kept missing everything left and it caught me off guard. It’s frustrating.”