Royal St George's, Sandwich

The Open 2011 round one - as it happened

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A cargo jumbo jet lands at Manston airbase across the bay from Sandwich
A cargo jumbo jet lands at Manston airbase across the bay from Sandwich. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

Welcome to the Guardian's coverage of the 140th Open Championship, from Royal St George's, Sandwich, Kent, where some of the greats of the game have lifted the Auld Claret Jug. Harry Vardon. Walter Hagen. Bobby Locke. Sandy Lyle. Greg Norman. Bill, er, Rogers. Ben Cu... let's start again.

Welcome to the Guardian's coverage of the 140th Open Championship, from Royal St George's, Sandwich, Kent. Arguably the four greatest days in the entire sporting year lay ahead of us. Which will only be spoilt at the very end when a US journeyman comes ambling out of the pack at the very last minute and makes off with the spoils. You know how this works. I've still not quite recovered from 2009 yet, when Stewart Cink ruined everyone's dreams, and by definition, their lives.

The last time the Open was held here, Thomas Bjorn should have won. Should have, but didn't. He held a three-shot lead on the 15th tee; four holes later, all hope was gone, the centrepiece of his meltdown a thundering nervous breakdown in a bunker at 16. Curtis was the champion, having only dropped 978 strokes over the last nine holes. What a hero. Anyway, Bjorn has started well this year; a late qualifier, he's birdied the 2nd and after six holes is -1, a shot behind the early leader, the 1989 champ Mark Calcavecchia. So, then, a very early leaderboard at 9am:

-2
Mark Calcavecchia (9)

-1
Thomas Bjorn (6)
Simon Dyson (6)
Ryan Moore (5)
Hiroyuki Fujita (3)

The Open: It is on!

So, some of the notable early tee off times. Paul Casey and Ben Curtis have just gone out. Luke Donald, Ryo Ishikawa and Sergio Garcia are off at 9.20am. John Daly will begin his charge to -6 by the turn, before finishing the day +8, at 9.53am. And, of course, Ernie Els and Rickie Fowler are just about to tee off, along with a certain young lad from Holywood.

Conditions today: Blustery, but not preposterously so. Unlike 2003, the rough is said to be perfectly playable. Sandwich should offer the field quite a test, but nothing beyond reason.

9.10am: "On the tee from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy." A huge cheer, pretty much as you'd expect. His first shot in competitive golf since rolling the ball into the cup on the 18th at Congressional, a 3-wood, is clapped down the track, only taking a kick right off the undulating fairway and into the semi-rough. He'll be fine from there. His playing partner Els - who towers over him as they walk down the hole chatting warmly - is straight down the middle. Rickie Fowler completes the group, and he's hit a screamer that's just leaked a bit left.

9.15am: Fowler and McIlroy both find the middle of the green at the 1st, but they're not getting much in the way of spin from their positions in the rough, and their balls bounce through the green and fall off the back. They'll both do well to get up and down from there. Els, from the middle of the fairway, can get a bit of bite with his approach and gives himself a birdie chance from 15 feet or so. On 7, Bjorn sends his third to eight feet, and rolls the birdie putt in; he's got a share of the early lead with Mark Calcavecchia at -2. Memories of 2003 for Bjorn? If so, they'll pretty much all be bad ones.

9.20am: What a birdie putt on the 1st from Fowler, who rakes in a 20-yard monster from just off the back of the green! What a start to his tournament. McIlroy's ball was just in front of Fowler's, but he doesn't learn much from the schooling, setting his putt out to the left, where it stays. He'll have a tester coming back.

9.25am: Back up on the tee, Luke Donald and Ryo Ishikawa clack booming tee shots down the middle. And here comes Sergio! What special nonsense awaits today from our slapstick hero? He starts as he probably won't go on, creaming a perfect 3-wood straight down the fairway. Meanwhile on the green, McIlroy prods an uncertain par putt at the hole, the ball staying high on the left. He opens with a bogey five, which wasn't in the script. But then the young man from Holywood rarely bothers to follow scripts.

9.30am: The breeze is picking up. Garcia's approach to the 1st is down in Fowler Country. As is Donald's. Ishikawa attempts to bounce in a Scottish wedge, but his ball takes a huge kick to the right and rolls off the green. They'll all have tests to save par. On 7, Alvaro Quiros joins Bjorn on -2, reaching the front of the par-five hole in two, then rolling in a huge right-to-left breaker that takes an age to drop, but eventually sneaks in. His playing partner Ryan Moore picks up his second birdie of the day to join him. Calcavecchia isn't leading any more, however, having dropped a shot at 11.

9.32am: Bjorn is doing his level best to chase those demons away: he birdies 8 for sole ownership of the lead. On 1, Garcia chips marvellously from off the back of the green to a couple of feet. A sure knock-in par for anyone else; anything between par and quadruple bogey for Sergio and his Special Putter.

9.35am: Garcia makes par on 1. Donald gets up and down from the back without much fuss; he'll be in the mood after a superlative show at Castle Stuart in the Scottish Open. Ishikawa bogeys, though, after making a pig's lug of his pitch from the right of the green, the ball barely getting up onto the putting surface. These greens are lightening fast, incidentally. Graeme Storm has drained one from off the front of the 12th; he's -2.

9.40am: Fowler has to knock in a testing ten-foot par putt on 2. He's due a proper tilt at a major championship. Being paired with McIlroy, very much his contemporary, will concentrate the mind. Rory and Ernie pop in for pars too. Calcavecchia has responded to his bogey on 11 with a birdie at 12; he's back on -2. On the BBC - and I'm very happy to say I only caught the second half of this snippet of commentary - Peter Alliss has just mentioned "a Colonel in the clubhouse bashing one off". There are generational issues at play here, I am sure of it. I have to convince myself that's the case.

9.45am: McIlroy's tee shot into the par-three 3rd lands reasonably close to the pin but takes a hard bounce and springs off the back of the green. He'll do well to save par. Fowler and Els aren't too close either. Donald looks in the mood, though; despite pushing his tee shot into heavy rough down 2, he's found the middle of the green, getting a surprising amount of spin from that filth.

9.50am: From the back of 3, McIlroy leaves himself a good 12 feet short of the hole. He can't make the par putt; he's +2. This is a rocky start from the US Open champion. Speaking of hopeless starts, here's 2004 champion Todd Hamilton. Remember him? Of course you don't. He's +4 after 10, having gone out in 39 strokes. Meanwhile Bjorn's Sandwich nightmares begin again: the leader misses a two-foot tiddler on 9 to drop back to -2.

9.55am: Scottish golf is in a bit of a state at the moment, even if Paul Lawrie remains the last home winner of this championship. But here's Martin Laird, the only Scot on the US tour, who follows up a birdie on the par-five 7th with a majestic approach to 8; he knocks in a three-foot birdie putt to join the leaders on -2.

9.57am: On 3, great tee shots from Garcia, to 20 feet, and in particular Donald, who knocks his 5-iron pin high, leaving him a ten-foot birdie chance. Todd Hamilton's dropped another shot; he's now +5. Your rescue club isn't going to get you out of this one, Todd, is it.

10am: McIlroy drives his ball into deep rough down the left at 4. But from a terrible position, and with a crosswind making a nuisance of itself, he knocks perhaps the shot of the day so far to 12 feet. He's left with a fairly straight putt up the green, though it's by no means a nailed-on birdie. Even so, to get out of trouble from there was very decent work. Here's the leaderboard on the hour:

-2
Calcavecchia (13)
Storm (13)
Bjorn (9)
Laird (8)

-1
Jacobson (10)
Dyson (9)
Moore (9)
Jimenez (7)
Goosen (2)
Hansen (2)

10.05am: Ha! John Daly's out on the course, in a ludicrous luminous orange hat, compensating for the fact that his egregious breeks are currently covered by some sober-coloured waterproofs. He rakes in a Fowleresque right-to-left breaker from off the back of the green, to open with a birdie. John Daly!

10.07am: Par for McIlroy on 4; he's +2 through the hole. He dealt with a tricky situation very calmly there. Maybe that'll give him some positive momentum.

10.10am: Trying to keep the ball on the 5th fairway is like attempting to land a block of ice halfway up a wall made of salt. Els and McIlroy see their drives take idiotic kicks into the right-hand rough after landing their balls pretty much in the middle of the fairway. Donald makes his birdie putt on 4; Sergio has to settle for par. As for Britain's Martin Laird - you'll see why in a second - he's just double bogeyed 9 to fall off the top of the leaderboard in spectacular style.

10.15am: Donald has started very nicely indeed; another lovely iron, to 12 feet or so, into 4. Garcia looks to have followed him, but his ball bites at the front of the green and stays put. He'll have two putts for par, but there's some distance to travel. Neither McIlroy nor Els can find the green on 5.

10.20am: Donald had more than 12 feet to go, to be fair, and so his birdie putt didn't drop. That's a par, though; he's -1 through 4. Garcia can't save his, sending a hot first putt a good eight feet past the hole, then failing to save his par. And so it begins. He hit a wonderful tee shot, only to overcook his wedge approach, and bugger it up from there on in. How many majors would this guy have if he could putt? He'd have challenged McIlroy for the US Open last month, for a start.

10.30am: Ishikawa is having something of a nightmare so far. He's +2 through 4, and has just sliced a long iron into pure rubbish on the next hole. On 5, McIlroy requires a ten-footer to save his par. He's escaped bogeys on the last two holes now.

10.35am: A birdie from Thomas Bjorn on 12, to give him the sole leadership. Calcavecchia is the only man still at-2. The course isn't giving away much today. The weather's expected to ease off a bit in the afternoon, which will be music to the ears of Lee Westwood (2.10pm), Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson (1.43pm), Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen and Phil Mickelson (2.21pm) and perhaps even SANDY LYLE (12.26pm).

10.40am: Another par for McIlroy on 6, a par for Donald on the tricky 5th. There's not much in the way of movement going on; today will be all about not falling out of contention, rather than making the running. The weather's set to improve tomorrow, only to get worse again at the weekend. Oh, hold on, Miguel Angel Jimenez has just carded his second birdie of the day, this one on 9, to join Calcavecchia in second place.

10.45am: Donald makes his first mistake of the day, pushing his tee shot at 6, but though his ball teases with a greenside bunker, it stays out and gives him a very good chance of getting up and down.

10.50am: He doesn't, though, leaving his chip a good eight feet short of the hole, and failing to hole the par putt. He's back to level par for the tournament.

10.55am: McIlroy, Els and Fowler all give themselves makeable birdie putts on 7, the Big Easy's bunker shot to six feet a particular thing of beauty. That'll not be a gimmie for him, though, given he's started faffing around with that belly putter.

11am: Els strokes in his birdie effort, though, a lovely putt, set out to the left and rolling into the cup serenely. He moves back to level par. Fowler follows him in, and is back at -1. McIlroy can't make his birdie, and stays +2. It's just not happening for him so far today. Sandwich is no Congressional. On 17, Calcavecchia clacks a ten-foot par effort right into the back of the cup. So here's the leaderboard on the hour:

-3
Bjorn (13)

-2
Calcavecchia (17)
Jimenez (10)

-1
Willett (F)
Storm (17)
Jacobson (14)
Dyson (13)
Moore (12)
The dreamwrecker Cink (9)
Fowler (7)
Noren (2)

11.05am: On 7, Garcia's second tips into the front of a bunker down the left, 60 yards from the green. He's got the sort of shot that would give any weekend hacker palpitations, but gets his club up and down almost vertically, clips the ball out, and finds the front of the green. That was amazing. On 10, 2009 happiness slayer Cink cards his third birdie of the morning; he's -2 for the tournament. But he's two behind the leader Bjorn, who opens up a gap at the top with another birdie, this time on 14.

11.07am: Donald responds to his bogey at 6 with birdie at 7. But he's lucky to do so, hitting his putt far too hard, the ball clattering into the centre of the cup and dropping. A millimetre either way and that would have whipped out. Donald covers his face, fully aware that he's got away with one there. He's back at -1, and very nicely placed at this early stage thank you.

11.10am: Els hooks his tee shot at 8 into horrible deep rough. He elects to take his medicine and chip out, but he can't even manage that, so knotted is the filth. He bumps his second effort out, but only into some more rough between the fairway and the green. Much will depend on his lie. How quickly things can spiral out of control in links golf. McIlroy, meanwhile, sends a gorgeous second into the green, using the bank on the left to keep the ball on the green, and send it back to within ten feet of the hole. Birdie chance.

11.15am: Calcavecchia drops a shot at the last, with an apologetic prod towards the hole from ten feet, but will still sign for a one-under 69. That's very nice work indeed from the 1989 champion. Speaking of winners from the 1980s, it's only one hour and 11 minutes until a certain Alexander Walter Barr Lyle MBE takes to the tee. "Time for the now traditional COME ON SANDY!," writes Euan Hendrie, getting over-excited nice and early (though I should point out that I fully agree). "I noticed last night that Alexander Walter Barr Lyle MBE is flat last in Paddy Power's odds for the Open at 2000-1 to win – a total insult to the big man. Still hits it great, knows the track inside out, has won here before (even if it was 26 years ago) and has learned how to win again on the Seniors Tour of late. I reckon a fiver on him each way is mandatory. Sentimental? Me??"

11.20am: Els sheds two strokes on 8, dropping back to +2. His playing partner McIlroy moves the other way, with his first birdie of the day. That was a tricky ten footer, but one that deserved to drop, so good was his approach. Meawnwhile Simon Dyson rakes in a huge left-to-right monster on 15. He's -2. And three strokes behind the leader Bjorn, who pops in yet another birdie to move to -5. How well he's responded to missing that dribbler on 9. Given what happened to him here in 2003, and the fact he only knew he was playing here pretty much at the last minute, this is turning into an amazing story.

11.25am: Bjorn revisits 16, the scene of his meltdown in 2003. Partial catharsis could be on the way, as he's clipped his iron to ten feet. Meanwhile a couple of moves just behind him: Cink birdies 11 while Jimenez birdies 12, the pair moving to -3.

11.30am: Bjorn strokes his birdie putt straight into the cup. He's -6. The course hasn't been expected to give up many shots this morning, so this is quite an outstanding performance. "So it's women-only as members of Royal St George's with the R&A pretending it doesn't matter, adapting the strategy that's worked so well for News
International recently," writes topical satirist Gary Naylor. "Is it possible to like a sport but dislike almost everything about it - as I do re golf? And wouldn't it be great if one of the golfers were to stand up and tell St George's committee and the R&A to grow up? (And before anyone says that it's a private club and they can do what they like, they can't as there are laws that would stop them doing a great many things - through planning regulations for example. How the law allows them to exclude women in 2011 is beyond me)."

11.35am: McIlroy rolls in a very tricky downhill left-to-right par putt on 9. He's out in one-over 36, which is not a total disaster since he's had to scramble a couple of times. Alongside him, Fowler rolls in a much easier uphill ten footer, and his is for birdie: he's -2 for this championship so far. "Ryan Moore's wearing a hoodie," tuts Rich Graveling, "which would get him thrown out of several UK shopping malls and industrial estate entertainment complexes, yet presumably Peter Alliss's Colonel has turned a blind eye. A precedent-setter for the weekend golfer, maybe." First Alliss's Colonel was "bashing one off" (9.40am), now he's turning a blind eye. I can't cope with these mental images.

11.40am: Ben Curtis is +5 through 10. Todd Hamilton has shot 77. What a couple of years those were.

11.45am: Garcia knocks in a ten-footer for birdie on 9. He's out in a level-par 35.

11.50am: A few specks of rain at Royal St George's now. Fowler is one or two turns of the ball away from moving to -3, but his birdie effort on 10 is dead straight but never quite enough. Els and McIlroy tap in for pars too, staying at +3 and +1 respectively. "I was at the Scottish Open last week for the Thursday/Friday rounds and saw Bjorn and Lyle playing a two-ball behind Ernie Els' group," writes Dennis Mumby. "Two players less interested in being there you could not have wished to see. I think Sandy was 13 over with a few holes left to play, and Bjorn was 3 or 4 over. Makes Bjorn's round today all the more remarkable." So if Bjorn - one par away from a 64 - is anything to go by, Sandy could be on for a round of 46 or less. Is that what you're trying to say?

11.55am: The rain is coming down properly now. Not too heavy yet, but it's wet and cold enough. On 18, Bjorn sets himself a puzzle by pulling his approach into Lyleland to the left of the green. On 14, Jimenez sends a pitch straight through the green and onto the apron, but knocks the putt back dead to save his par. He's card is very tidy today indeed - three birdies, no bogeys - and that won't be changing any time soon. Meanwhile here are a couple of points on women members from Matt Emerson: "Firstly, read Dawson's quotes, but replace the word 'boys' with 'whites' and 'girls' with 'blacks' and see how outraged you get. It's ridiculous and reflects terribly on both the organisers and the silence of the multi-millionaires who play in it. Secondly, introduce a piece of legislation that states that no TV coverage will be allowed for any sporting event held in the UK at a members-only club that restricts its entry by sex. That should do it."

Midday: Bjorn can't save his par on the last - a poor chip followed by a very average par putt - but he'll still sign for a 65. If only he could have done that on the last day eight years ago. Here's how we stand, then, on the leaderboard:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-3
Jimenez (14)

-2
Dyson (F)
Moore (16)
Cink (13)
Fowler (10)

12.10pm: Thomas Bjorn was the sixth reserve, incidentally, only making it to Sandwich this week after Vijay Singh dropped out injured. That is some round of 65, and an amazing story. He's unlikely to keep it up, you'd think, but then that's what they said about Greg Norman and Tom Watson in recent years. The rain's beginning to pour down now, with the wind still blustering away. There's a small cloud over the head of Rickie Fowler, too, as he's just missed an idiotic short par putt on 11, dropping back to -1. "46?" splutters Dennis Mumby, of the Lyle Extrapolation (11.50am). "Do you mean on the front nine?"

12.20pm: A lot of short putts missed so far today. Donald is the latest victim/culprit, dropping back to level par for his round on 10. The wind and rain are picking up - so much for professional weather forecasters, who have been getting away with murder for years now - so despite Bjorn's five-under heroics, anything around level par will be a decent score.

12.25pm: On 12, Sergio clips a wedge to two feet. That's a certain birdie, even taking into account his ridiculous putting; it'll move him to -1. "The Lyle Extrapolation sounds like a great title for a Robert Ludlum novel," suggests this report's co-author Dennis Mumby. "Sandy could be the Bourne-like protagonist out to expose the corruption at the heart of the bastion of male hegemony that is Royal St. George's. I have way too much time on my hands today."

12.30pm: A birdie at 12 for Ishikawa, but he's still +5 after a disastrous front nine. Garcia knocks in his one-foot birdie putt. I shouldn't need to tell you that, but you know exactly why I have.

12.40pm: Els steers a low, long iron into the 13th, a proper links golf shot to 15 feet. But he can't knock the birdie putt in, and stays at +3. McIlroy drops back to +2, leaving a very weak eight-footer short. And Fowler's dropping a shot there too, moving back to level par. "The sooner Sky get the open the better," suggests Larry Laffan. "The BBC camera work is atrocious. They lose the ball in the air and fail to show the ball where the ball lands. They also missed a pitch to green shot by McElroy and instead showed Ernie Els standing in the bunker waiting for McElroy to play. Lousy coverage for a great event."

12.45pm: A birdie for Jimenez to move him to -4 on 17. That was an amazing birdie, because he was in some trouble on the left with his drive, only to hit his second to the back of the green, the ball reaching the top of the slope then rolling back down towards the hole, leaving him a six-footer for his birdie. What an old-school leaderboard we have: the 40-year-old Bjorn followed by the 47-year old Jimenez. Gotta love golf.

12.50pm: Back to back birdies for Sergio, who rattles a putt straight into the back of the cup on 13. He's -2 and only three off the lead. And - whisper it - his putting stroke is looking more solid than it did at Congressional for the US Open (where he was much improved on the greens, but still prone to missing many short efforts). Alongside him, the world number one Luke Donald is going the other way, sad to say, dropping his second shot on the back nine so far, missing an eight-footer in a manner that can only be described as Sergioesque. Most unlike Donald.

12.55pm: Sandy Lyle, in news to warm the cockles of Euan Hendrie (11.15am), has parred the first.

12.57pm: HOLE IN ONE! On the 14th tee, the always entertaining Dustin Johnson was four over par. Three holes later, he's back level for the tournament. Back to back birdies came first, but to hell with those: he's leathered a tee-shot wedge into the centre of the par-three 16th green, and sent the ball bouncing along an arc to the left and clattering into the cup! That would have been halfway to Dover had the flagstick not got in the way. He takes his cap off in celebration, then throws the ball into the crowd. Someone will have a very nice souvenir of their day at the golf (unless it crumps into their teeth, in which case they'll have a whole range of trinkets). For a man who so often suffers meltdowns in the majors, it's nice to see him experience an anti-meltdown. A reconstitution? A freezing? Probably best left, this.

1pm: Sandy Lyle's parred the 2nd, too. That's all you need to know. But if you want to dig a bit deeper, Miguel Angel Jimenez has parred 18 to sign for a 66, a stroke behind the leader Thomas Bjorn. On the hour, here's how we stand:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-4
Jimenez (F)

-2
Dyson (F)
Ikeda (16)
Sergio!!!!!!!! (13)

1.10pm: The Dustin Johnson pyrotechnics at 16 obscured the fact his playing partner Ian Poulter birdied the hole; he's level par. Nothing's dropping for Luke Donald; a birdie effort on the par-five 14th stays up on the high side. He's still +1. "Re the BBC and golf," begins Gary Naylor, "their Seve programme earlier this week was a missed opportunity. Far too much of Bruce Forsyth and not enough Jose-Maria. Incredibly, there wasn't enough Seve either, with too many context-free party piece shots on unidentified courses and not enough on how he actually won those Majors and built that Ryder Cup record. As usual these days - unless it's Sky - celebrity-led puff pieces swamped the actual sport." Just like their Wimbledon coverage, and much of the racing these days. Not sure when it was decided that the public can't concentrate on any given subject unless there's a celebrity yakking away in the foreground, but the BBC Sport department certainly received the memo.

1.15pm: And then on 17, Poulter knocked his approach to the back of the green, Jimenez-like, letting the slope send the ball back towards the pin. He knocks in his birdie effort to move into red figures for the first time today, -1. Which is also the mark his playing partner Johnson moves to, having birdied the hole too. He's picked up five shots in the last four holes, including that hole in one. He really is a very good player indeed, a major winner in waiting - if he can eradicate those inexplicable implosions.

1.25pm: Sergio is in all sorts of bother on 15, having sliced his tee shot into heavy rough down the right. He gives the ball, and all the tousled grass around it, a mammoth smash, ending his follow-through hopping around on one leg like a cartoon character who's just overshot a corner. It's a brilliant effort, and looks like he's powered the ball onto the green in spite of all the odds, but it takes a kick left and rolls into a bunker. If he gets up and down from here, it'll be some escape.

1.30pm: Miguel Angel Jimenez is asked for his opinion of his 66. "Is nice, no?" He's only really interested in getting his cigar on, isn't he.

1.35pm: Ian Poulter isn't far from knocking in a long birdie putt on 18, but has to make do with par for a one-under 69. He'd have taken that at the start of the day. Every player not out yet would grab that with both hands. He looks quietly content with his day's work. Playing partner and one-man Keystone Kops film Dustin Johnson drops a shot at the last, to card a level-par 70. His last five holes: birdie, birdie, hole in one, birdie, bogey. God almighty, he's one of the most inadvertently entertaining men on the planet.

1.37pm: Brilliant from Garcia on 15, who splashes to 12 feet, then knocks in a staunch par putt. His stroke is looking solid, and what's really interesting is the determined air-punch he executes after knocking in his par effort. He seems really in the mood for this, maybe even enjoying his golf again. Come on, Sergio, keep it going, don't upset us all again. He's going to upset us all again, isn't he. Oh Sergio!

1.40pm: And sure enough, Sergio has found the bunker at the back-left of the 16th green with his tee shot. "Far be it from my to be a pedant (oh, alright then) but as the British Open is on the 'A List' of so-called 'Crown Jewels' drawn up by the last government, then it can't be moved away from terrestrial TV," notes Guy Hornsby. "And while I'm sure it's making Larry Laffan's espresso shake uncontrollably, seeing as there's rain and wind down at Sandwich, it's a little different to following the target golf that much of Sky covers in Europe and the US, where everything's sunny, and pristine. The Beeb to a great job with the Open, and there'd be something wrong with the world without messrs Aliss, Brown et al not purring through their pink gins this week. It's probably a good opportunity to remember the peerless Alex Hay, sadly passed away earlier this week. Sky would be all 3D, adverts and slow-mo montages. No thanks." As it goes, Sky's golf coverage is nothing short of excellent, but you're right: the Open belongs on the BBC. Bugger about with these things at your peril. Look at the Cup Final.

1.45pm: A birdie for McIlroy on 17. He's +1. It's far from perfect, but he's hardly out of it. Sergio can only splash out of the bunker to 10 feet, and can't hole the par putt; he's back to -1. I knew I shouldn't have said anything. Why does he keep doing this to us? What's in it for him?

1.50pm: Here's a group leaving the 18th green with their tails between their legs: Paul Casey +4, Aaron Baddeley +7, the 2003 champion Ben Curtis +7. Baddeley is the only man to wing a drive out of bounds today. Curtis at least has the decency to look sheepish. What a year 2003 was, eh.

1.55pm: A poor start for Graeme McDowell, whose second shot takes a flyer through the back of the green and ends up tangled in a row of TV cables. He shifts the cables without disturbing the ball, and doesn't disturb the ball too much with his chip either, duffing it only halfway up the bank. That's not going to end well. Up on the 18th, his countryman and pal Rory McIlroy two-putts for par, signing for a one-over 71. He looks happy enough to get away with that after playing poorly by his high standards. Meanwhile there's an emotional press conference by Thomas Bjorn, whose father passed away recently. "He would have been very proud of me, that's all I want to say," Bjorn stammers quietly, doing the best he can, each word delivered with hesitation as he struggles to dam the tears ready to flood out. And a nice thoughtful touch from commentator Andrew Cotter as the BBC segues back to the action: "And that's all you have to say, Thomas." There's so much cheap sentimentality in sport, it's reassuring to see some real emotion now and then.

2pm: Donald birdies 17, to move back to +1. Here's what's going on up top:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-4
Jimenez (F)

-2
Dyson (F)
Hansen (16)

2.10pm: Garcia wings his drive on 18 over some railings on the right. He'll get to pop that ball in the drop zone. From which he gets a flyer, dicing with out-of-bounds down the right. For God's sake, Sergio! I suppose he's getting it all out of the way early doors. He's really lost his equilibrium over the last few holes. Meanwhile McDowell leaves the 1st with a double-bogey six.

2.15pm: It's been a rollercoaster start for Padraig Harrington, albeit one you'd probably ask your money back from after the ride, on account of there being only two slopes: bogey, bogey, birdie. McDowell meanwhile drains a 25-footer on 2 just to save par. He's not started well at all. "Sergio is playing to form," notes Craig McEwan, "losing his mojo just when I start to watch. Maybe it is me and not him?"

2.20pm: Donald taps in for par on 18, to sign for a one-over 71. Garcia didn't go out of bounds, but could only send his third shot to 12 feet. Needless to say, he fails to make the par putt, ending his round bogey-par-bogey and reaching the clubhouse in level par. "I'm with Gary Naylor on this one," writes Lizzy Ammon. "I love golf (not anywhere near as much as cricket but love it nonetheless). It's a sport that requires guile, guts, brains and a little bit of brawn. But I loathe everything that goes with it: inflexible rules, pompous middle age men running it, the undertones of misogyny and the BBC not quite working out that it's 2011."

2.21pm: Here's the defending Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen. He pushes the first shot of his defence, a 3-wood, into the light stuff down the right. The reigning US PGA champion, Martin Kaymer, knocks his tee shot down the middle. And the four-time major winner Phil Mickelson - who is due a good Open, having only really featured at the business end of this tournament in 2004 - pulls his into slightly deeper stuff down Oosthuizen Country.

2.30pm: Jason Day - second at Augusta, second in the US Open - is level par through the first three holes, having dropped a shot on the 1st and clawed it back on the 3rd. Mickelson is almost certainly going to drop a shot on the 1st, his second from deep rough well short and right of the green, his long putt in the Scottish style ending up 20 feet from the hole. Oosthuizen is making a similar meal of the opening hole of his defence, leaving a chip from the back of the green well short.

2.40pm: Mickelson can't save his par on 1, but what a putt from Oosthuizen, who guides in a 20-footer, breaking gently left to right, from the back of the green. Up on 2, Lee Westwood is close to stroking in a 15-foot birdie effort, but the ball breaks right at the last.

2.50pm: Some other notable bits of this and that. Darren Clarke opened with a bogey, but has responded with birdies at 2 and 4. Adam Scott has picked up a shot at 3; he's also -1 early in his round. The Masters champion Charl Schwarzel has also birdied 3; he's -1. And Peter Whiteford of Scotland, who finished tenth in his home Open last week, has gone out in 34 strokes, -1 for the championship so far.

3pm leaderboard:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-4
Jimenez (F)

-2
Dyson (F)
Campbell (11)

3.05pm: A birdie for Bubba Watson on 5; he's -1.

3.20pm: Sorry, some technical issues at this end slowing things up. You deserve better. Come to think of it, I deserve better. What you've missed is the lovely news that Tom Watson has drained a monster on the par-three 3rd; he's -1.

3.25pm: Bjorn and Jimenez apart, there's been nobody able to take a course playing very tough by the scruff of the neck. The result is that the tournament has yet to take much shape: there are 83 players currently between third place (-2) and +2.

3.30pm: Another lovely putt from Watson, a 15-footer breaking from the right on 4. This one's only for par, but the cheer that goes up is as big as anything we've heard today. Meanwhile, as is his wont lately, Westwood is starting a major very slowly indeed. He's just dropped his third shot on the bounce at the 5th; he's +3 already.

3.40pm: McDowell begins his recovery after that dreadful start - a double bogey at the 1st and another dropped shot at 5 - with two birdies on the spin at 6 and 7. He's back to +1.

3.45pm: "I'm stuck on train to Scotland - Sandy's homeland (who mentioned Shropshire?) - and thus need an update on the big man's progress," demands Euan Hendrie. "By my reckoning he should be on about the 12th by now and thus around -3. Is he on for a 67 or settling for 68?" That's a wonderful guess. He's just through 12. Not quite there with the scoring: after a birdie at 8 the 1985 winner was level for the round, but bogeys at 9 and 10 have seen him fall back to +2. Two birdies and a hole in one, Dustin Johnson style, and he'll be in for that 68. On 6, Westwood sucks his cheeks in pensively as his birdie effort fails to drop, but at least he's stemmed the flow of dropped shots.

3.55pm: Kyle Stanley, who grabbed the last spot in this year's Open at the John Deere Classic, is making the most of his opportunity: the US youngster is -2 through 13. Meanwhile the 1997 Open champion Justin Leonard has started like a train, with birdies at the first three holes!

4pm: A possibly unprecedented front nine from Justin Rose: all pars. He's wandering around the 9th green with one hand in his pocket, a huge smile on his face, every inch the modern Faldo. Here's the leaderboard:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-4
Jimenez (F)

-3
Leonard (3!)

-2
Dyson (F)
Chad Campbell (14)
Stanley (14)
Scott (9)
Andersson Hed (5)

4.05pm: Schwartzel is this close to draining a 30-foot eagle putt on 7. He settles for birdie, which moves him back to level par for the tournament. Westwood meanwhile gets up and down for birdie: could this be the start of something? He's back to +2.

4.10pm: Sandy has dropped another shot, this time at 13. Bah. McDowell's comeback was short-lived, a dropped shot at 8 following his back to back birdies at 6 and 7, but he's popped his approach to eight feet at 9. Chad Campbell, so nearly the 2009 Masters champion, has dropped back to -1 after shedding a shot at 15.

4.15pm: Steady enough stuff from PGA champion Martin Kaymer: he drops a shot on 6, then picks it up again at 7, where he's a foot or so away from eagle. McDowell spurns his birdie effort at 9. Very poor. Bubba Watson trickles in a left-to-right breaker on the same hole to save his par; he's gone out in 34, one under par, with a very tidy card of eight pars and a birdie.

4.25pm: Assorted moves near the top. All going in the right direction: Pablo Larrazabal, Adam Scott and Fredrik Andersson Hed, all moving up to -2; heading the other way, Justin Leonard, whose par putt at 4 lips out. No pars yet on that card. He's -2 as well. Anyway, I'm now going to hand over the reins to the more than capable James Dart. Enjoy, enjoy.

Live blog: substitution

4.30pm: Afternoon/evening, James here. I seem to arrived just as the BBC have handed over the commentary reins to CBS's Jim Nantz (Jim William Nantz III, apparently). It just feels rather strange (I know Nantz has guested over here in the past). Anyway, I would recommend you checking out this delightful Open gallery from our snappers Tom Jenkins and David Levene at Royal St George's, especially the picture now atop this report.

4.35pm: As for the golf, US hopes are currently riding on Kyle Stanley, currently third on his own at -3 with two holes to play, having just birdied the par-three 16th. Graeme McDowell is back on the 11th tee, standing at +2, but fails to find the short stuff with a long iron at the devilishly tricky par three.

4.40pm: Amateur Tom Lewis drains a 20-foot putt on the eighth to move to -3, his third birdie on a blemishless card. Lewis won the 2009 Boys Amateur Championship here at Royal St George's and clearly knows his way around the track. Unlike, say, Lee Westwood, whose attempt to get up and down to save par at the 9th results in a weak chip leaving a 25-footer that holds up just above the cup. His mood is miffed, to say the least.

4.46pm: Stanley's birdie putt on 17 just tails off, but he taps in for a comfortable par to stay at -3. Back on the 9th green, good touch is shown from Martin Kaymer as he leaves himself a tricky putt up over a ridge which he lags well. It should be a safe tap-in for par.

4.50pm: Reigning champion Louis Oosthuizen reaches the turn in 38 without a birdie to his name. Nothing much is happening for the South African as his birdie putt skitters wide left, leaving him a tester for par, which he does well to hole. Kaymer, meanwhile, does indeed tap in for an excellent save; he's even par. The third member of the group, Phil Mickelson, holes a short putt for par himself and is also level for the championship.

4.55pm: Reading up on some historical Open Championships at Royal St George's earlier this week led me to the 1949 renewal, when bottle was very much at the fore. A bottle, to be precise:

The 1949 Open at Royal St George's will always be known for the battle Ireland's Harry Bradshaw waged with a bottle. After an opening 68 he was playing steadily in the second round when he pushed his tee shot into the semi-rough to the right of the fifth fairway. But he found his ball lodged in the bottom half of a broken beer bottle.

The rules allowed him a free drop, but they were rather ambiguously worded and Bradshaw was reluctant to take a chance of disqualification. With no referees on instant call as they are in today's championship, Bradshaw decided to blast his way out of trouble. Taking out his sand-wedge and closing his eyes tight he sent splinters of glass in all directions and moved the ball about 30 yards.

But his calm state of mind had been disturbed and he took two more to reach the green, holing out in six. He finished the round in 77 and closed the championship with 68 and 70 to tie for the title with South African Bobby Locke. The true cost of a spectator's carelessness became apparent when Bradshaw lost the 36-hole play-off by 135 to 147.

On the move at the 14th is Darren Clarke, rolling in a birdie putt to reach -2, a tie for fifth at present. And Tom Lewis fires in an excellent second shot to the ninth, giving himself a decent chance of a fourth birdie on the front nine.

4.57pm: A happier Lee Westwood walks off the 10th, having holed out from close range for birdie. He's back to +2.

5pm: Lewis just fails with his birdie attempt at the 9th, which leaves him six clear of the closest fellow amateur, Peter Uihlein, while playing partner Tom Watson pings in another good putt for par to reach the turn at level. All of which leaves the leaderboard at this time as follows:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-4
Jimenez (F)

-3
Stanley (17)
Lewis (9)

-2
Dyson (F)
Larrazabal (17)
Clarke (14)
Andersson Hed (7)
Leonard (6)

5.05pm: McDowell is back to +1 with a birdie at the 12th. "Just wondering if you have any info on my each-way bet Nicholas Colsaerts?" asks James Lace. "I'm getting a suspicion he was withdrawn today or something as he should be out now?!" Your hunch is pretty good, I'm afraid, James. The Belgian didn't make the first tee because of an elbow injury he sustained in a fall from a rented scooter he drove into a kerb in Sandwich on Monday. Ricky Barnes, the eighth alternative, took the spot and is currently -1 through seven. Earlier in the week, Colsaerts explained:

"I'm not a risk-taker usually, I'm no dare-devil. I was just trying to get into a little safer place but it worked against me. There was no alcohol involved or anything - don't worry about that. But you have to do something to while away the time, you can't just sit in your room and do nothing. I'm usually fine on two wheels. I've ridden in heavy traffic in Thailand before so it shouldn't really have been an issue."

5.10pm: "Perhaps Harry Bradshaw should have kept that bottle and passed it down through the years for his grand-son or grand-daughter to give to Sergio, who lost his bottle on a golf course a decade or so ago," riffs Gary Naylor. Well, I missed Sergio conspire to drop two shots in the final three holes, but level par on a day when many of the so-called 'leading' players haven't set the world alight is a decent platform. Then again, we're only on Thursday; Sergio hasn't really been one for major tournament golf on days that begin with an S. On course, Charl Schwartzel (level par) reaches the 11th, where his tee shot leaves him an awkward chip-and-run. He completely botches it, leaving himself on the fringe, before running his third shot a good six feet past the cup. He'll have that for a bogey.

5.15pm: Bubba Watson gets some relief from a camera tower on the 13th, having reached the hole at -1. His approach is tugged left, leaving him a 50-footer for birdie, and prompting him to toss his club on the ground. Golf's always entertaining when Bubba's around (though don't get him mad, like he was at the French Open a fortnight ago). Elsewhere, Stanley misses a short putt for par on the 18th, leaving him with an opening 68; a fine round nevertheless. And Westwood is back to +3 with an ugly bogey at 11.

5.20pm: Schwartzel keeps his composure to drop just the single shot at the 11th to leave him at +1. On the 10th, Tom Lewis has a lengthy putt for a three, which skirts just past the left lip. He knocks the return putt in competently enough to leave himself at -3. Also on that score is Fredrik Andersson Hed, sinking a curling 30-footer from the front edge of the 9th. And there's another birdie for Graeme McDowell on the 12th, his second in two holes, to pull himself back to level par.

5.21pm: Jason Day, the world No8, is in Bubba Watson's group and holes out for birdie to pull himself back to +2. Watson, meanwhile, lags around five feet shy of the hole and it proves costly, his par putt slipping past on the left. He's back to level.

5.25pm: A first birdie of the day for Oosthuizen on the 11th, pulling him back to +3. He gives playing partner Kaymer a great read, which the German takes full advantage from around 15 feet to go -1. Phil Mickelson, having watched the other two drop decent-length birdie attempts, then has no more than three feet for a birdie of his own. He misses.

5.27pm: Pablo Larrazabal is in the clubhouse on -2 after a long two-putt par at 18, which leaves him three strokes behind leader Thomas Bjorn. In the meantime, the BBC coverage pans around to what looks very much like an ugly oil platform or wind-farm contraption in what Google Maps tells me is the North Sea. Usually, there are some glorious overhead shots of the Scottish or Lancashire coastline, but there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of attractive views looking out from Sandwich these days.

5.30pm: If you missed it, here's Dustin Johnson's hole in one earlier today. Not that you'd know about it given the under-the-weather American's understandable post-round demeanour:

"I'm not very excited at all. I'm going to go home and sleep because I'm not feeling that well - my glands are swollen. I've got some kind of infection. I'm on antibiotics so hopefully it'll go away."

5.35pm: A testing par putt for Tom Watson at the 11th, but it holds up on the lip. Tom Lewis also drops a shot at the hole, falling back to -2, a score that last-gasp alternate Ricky Barnes finds himself on, a birdie at the 9th taking him to the turn in 33. Elsewhere, Darren Clarke sets up a birdie chance on the 17th, while McDowell's second on the par-five 14th is pin high on the right, leaving him a decent chance of an up-and-down for birdie.

5.40pm: More trouble for Charl Schwartzel, this time on the 13th, where his third shot on the par four pulls up shy of the green and tumbles back into sand. The Masters champion, who bogeyed the 12th to go +2, will do well to drop just the one shot again.

5.45pm: Steve Stricker is also in trouble on the 13th, having found sand off the tee, just as Schwartzel did. His third shot is stone dead by the cup, instead and a par will follow to keep him at level. Westwood is the other member of the threesome, but he misses a 10-footer for birdie and stays at +3. Schwartzel's bunker shot leaves himself a six-footer for bogey, which he does well to hole. It still leaves him at +3. Up a hole, Bubba Watson rolls in a long birdie putt to reclaim the shot he dropped just now at 13. "Re: your picture. Is it my imagination, or is there another plane just below the jumbo also coming in to land (look to the left of and slightly below the jumbo's nose)?" notes Dennis Mumby. You're not wrong, Dennis. It looks like it's trying to camouflage itself in with the scenery, just hoping that nobody spots it. "This looks remarkably dangerous," adds Dennis.

5.55pm: Where were we? Ah yes: McDowell fails to get up and down on 14, remaining at level par. Westwood arrives on the very same hole and tugs his approach in a similar direction, much to his chagrin. Elsewhere, Tom Lewis hole a good putt for par at the 12th and remains on -2.

6pm: Conditions are probably the best they have been all day as Darren Clarke arrives at the 18th green. He's left with a tricky up-and-down from the edge of the green, but the third shot is a cracker, leaving him a tap-in for par. He cards a 68. Back a hole, Lucas Glover birdies to go into a tie for third on -3. The leaderboard, then, at this time:

-5
Bjorn (F)

-4
Jimenez (F)

-3
Glover (17)
Andersson Hed (11)

-2
Dyson (F)
Larrazabal (F)
Clarke (F)
Lewis (A) (12)
Barnes (11)
Leonard (9)

Live blog: recap

6.05pm: We're winding up the coverage for today. You can follow the remaining action with the official Open leaderboard to see if anyone can eat into Thomas Bjorn's lead. Thanks for your company through the day. Scott Murray will be back in the hot seat on Friday morning for the second round. Have a good evening, cheers, James.


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