The Open: Mark O’Meara hails Grant Forrest

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GRANT Forrest gained an admirer as the local hero overcame a “daunting experience” to outscore a posse of major winners with a two-over-par 73 on his Open Championship debut.

“I thought Grant was a fine young man and very talented, too,” said playing partner and two-times major winner Mark O’Meara of his afternoon in the 20-year-old Scot’s company.

O’Meara, of course, was a valuable mentor to Tiger Woods as he cut his professional teeth and now he has offered to take Forrest under his wing, too. “My philosophy when I’m playing golf is that I want to be a mentor to the younger players,” he added. “I want to set the right example. If I can help a young player become a better player or move along in his career, I’m very happy to do that. And I see a bright future for Grant, very much so. He made some good birdies coming in (at the 15th and 16th) when he needed to, and I predict that he’ll play well again tomorrow.”

Indebted to O’Meara – Australian Marcus Fraser, too – for helping him feel comfortable, Forrest said he had a “great time” yesterday. “The first tee was pretty nervy, but not as bad as I thought it might be,” said the Scottish Amateur champion from Craigielaw. “Mark started talking to me as soon as I got on the first tee, putting me at ease. It’s daunting playing in your first Open and it can make you feel really uncomfortable if the other guys don’t talk to you, and shoo you out the way. It made a big difference to have someone like that to play with.”

It had been a restless night before the biggest test of his young career. “I must have only got about two or three hours,” he said. “I got up at about 8.30 but I was lying awake for a lot longer. Making the cut was the first target for the week and I’d definitely have taken that round. I’m off early tomorrow and hopefully I’ll benefit from the greens having a bit of moisture in them.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen a course this fast and firm but this is how it used to be. Sometimes good shots stay good, sometime you get unlucky.”

Forrest looks to have a fight on his hands for the Silver Medal, the prize for leading amateur. Jimmy Mullen, a 19-year-old from Devon, bagged five birdies in a 71 to sit in joint-21st.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, the British Boys’ champion, was also heading for a level-par start until he dropped two shots at the last. A 73, though, was still a splendid effort by the 18-year-old.