Zach Johnson of the United States plays the 15th fairway during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf Championship at the Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, Scotland, Wednesday, July 13, 2016.The British Open starts Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham
July 14, 2016

TROON, Scotland (AP) On the Royal Troon links where his father once served as the club secretary, Colin Montgomerie got the British Open started on Thursday morning by hitting the opening tee shot.

Montgomerie, widely considered the best player to have never won a major, qualified at age 53 for what likely will be his last Open, and certainly his last at Royal Troon. The R&A chose him to be the first player to hit a shot on a gorgeous morning along the Irish Sea.

Twenty minutes before he teed off, there wasn't an empty seat in the grandstand next to the first tee, where the silver claret jug was on a podium. Five dogs were on the beach, running along the shores amid tall shadows cast by the rising sun.

Montgomerie was the last player to arrive, and the crowd saved the loudest cheer for him.

It was a glorious start - for one shot, anyway.

Montgomerie's approach to the gentle opening hole plugged into a pot bunker short of the green. He didn't get out, and had to play the next shot backward away from the green, leading to double bogey.

Luke Donald and Marc Leishman both made birdie.

It was Montgomerie who once famously said about the start at Royal Troon that if a player is not under par at the turn, he might as well walk over to the clubhouse at adjacent Prestwick and have lunch.

Royal Troon is a tale of two nines. The shorter, outward nine is a par 36 with the wind typically at the back. The inward nine is much longer and plays to a par 35, into the wind.

For the start of the 145th Open, there was no wind at all. Conditions were perfect, especially with a lush course brought on by recent rain.

Among those playing early were three of the ''Fab Four'' - Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson was to play in the afternoon.

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