By Simon Evans
SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) - Former winner Mark O'Meara was given the honor of being first off in what will almost certainly be his final British Open, but the American endured a horrible round of 81 in the rain at Royal Birkdale.
The 60-year-old won at the course on the North-West coast in 1998 and this is his final year of automatic eligibility for the competition.
- PHOTOS: 16 Betty White quotes to brighten your day17 Pictures
- PHOTOS: It was a stylish No Pants Subway Ride 2019 in NYC19 Pictures
But when O'Meara dips into his Birkdale memories in years to come he will surely try to blank out Thursday's round of eleven over par.
Tournament organizers, the Royal and Ancient golf club (R&A), had honored O'Meara by making him first to tee off in the opening round, but he drove his first shot out of bounds and had to battle to make a quadruple bogey eight.
"I just got off to such a poor start. When you're 9-over par through eight holes or whatever I was, you know, it's very disappointing, to be honest with you, but it's not the end of the world. I realize kind of where I'm at in my life," he said.
O'Meara is currently ranked 1,627th in the world and now on the Champions Tour, so it is hard to see him qualifying in the future.
"For the R&A to give me that privilege at the first tee shot shows the respect for what they have for their Open champions, the respect to know that this was going to be my last Open Championship," he said.
Despite his disappointing round, O'Meara was still able to reflect positively on his past success.
"Look, to have my name on that Claret Jug one time is an amazing thing, especially for a young guy, growing up in Southern California starting the game late. And at 41 to have that dream come true was pretty neat," he said.
O'Meara's win at Birkdale in 1998 came just a few weeks after his first and only win in the U.S Masters in Augusta.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by John Stonestreet)