HE WAS fizzing. Understandably so. His perfect preparation had quickly gone out of the window with two bogeys to start. He’d then putted into a bunker for the first time in his career.
If he’d been playing anywhere else, Bradley Neil would have exploded at that point. To his credit, however, he stopped himself from doing something he’d probably have regretted for the rest of his life.
“Inside I was tearing apart, but I didn’t let it show,” admitted the 18-year-old from Blairgowrie. “I was playing on one of the biggest stages in the world and there was nowhere to hide. I could have made myself look really bad if I’d let what was happening get to me.”
His putt into the bunker came at the fifth and cost him a double-bogey 7 – the bulk of the damage in a seven-over-par 79.
“That is always fun,” he said, sarcastically. “I tried to take one to the pin but I didn’t hit it hard enough and it took the wrong break and went into the bunker.
“I don’t think I’ve ever putted into a bunker before. All I could do was laugh. It wouldn’t have been funny to see my reaction if nobody was there, though.”
Earlier, having tugged a shot from the rough at the second, his ball was picked up by a security guard after it landed close to a practice chipping green.
“When I went over, he had the ball in his hand so I thought it was out of bounds but he got a ticking off from the rules official as he shouldn’t have picked it up,” reported Neil of that unusual incident.
His effort was 12 shots more than Matteo Manassero, one of his playing partners. The pair found the same bunker off the first tee. Manassero holed his third from 160 yards and never looked back; Neil took bogey and struggled from then on.
“To be in that spotlight has been a learning curve and I’ll take a lot from it and move on,” said the Amateur champion. “It’s about learning from the tough times. It can’t be as bad as that tomorrow.”
That view was echoed by Paul Lawrie. Tripping on a step and almost falling flat on his face as he appeared in the mixed zone to speak to the Scottish scribes summed up his day.
“It was unbelievably poor today,” said the 1999 champion after also opening with a 79. “I just hit the ball awful and holed absolutely nothing. I had three single putts – one was about a foot, one about six inches and the other was four inches.
“When you play that poorly and hole no putts, there’s a good chance you’re going to shoot a score like that.
“I struggled yesterday and today there was just no speed at the bottom of the swing. Then, trying to find speed, you’re just flipping at it with the hands and hitting it straight left. It was a struggle.”
Former champion Sandy Lyle had a torrid day, finishing with a ten-over-par 82. Double bogeys at the 7th and 11th holes, and a triple bogey at the 14th ruined the 1985 winner’s card.