WINNING memories have helped Australia’s Mike Harwood to a share of the lead after the first round of the 2011 Senior British Open.
Twenty years after winning the European Open at Walton Heath Golf Club, Harwood again showed his liking for the historic Surrey venue with an opening 4-under round of 68.
Harwood, currently seventh on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit, leads the championship alongside Irishman Mark McNulty and 1989 British Open winner Mark Calcavecchia of the US.
Harwood potted seven birdies in the first 15 holes to lead the field by two strokes but lost that leading margin with bogeys on the difficult 16th and 18th holes.
The 52 year old Victorian was nonetheless delighted with his performance on his return to the course which yielded the last of his five European Tour titles, before he swapped life on Tour for a career as a club professional back in Australia.
“I’ve got some great memories of this place. I’ve been thinking about this event since it was announced it was going to come here. So I got some good positive vibes, and I’m trying to feed off them,” Harwood said.
“I shot 65 on the last day to win the European Open, about five weeks after I’d finished second in The Open. I remember I was on the 16th green, watching the other guys playing the 14th. I looked over to my caddie and said: “These guys are dreaming”. I was at the pinnacle of my career at that particular moment on that green. And I went on to win by a couple of shots. I’ve always got that in the back of my mind. It’s great to be back here.”
A shot behind the leaders was South Africa’s David Frost and unheralded Scot Albert MacKenzie, while defending champion Bernhard Langer of Germany was one of seven players on two-under.
Pre-tournament favourite Tom Watson was singing the praises of his putting after his Open performance but on rain sodden day that skill seemed to desert him.
Three-time winner and eight-time major champion shot a 75 to lie seven shots off the pace.
Peter Fowler (71) finished on 1-under at T13 to be the next best placed Australian, while Peter Senior won’t be happy with this 2-over 74. Rodger Davis shot 76 while David Merriman and Wayne Smith each carded 78.