ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Mark O’Meara didn’t come to the British Open expecting to hit the ball this well. Nor did he expect to feel such a strong sense of peace.
O’Meara wasn’t even sure whether to play at St. Andrews this year because his 81-year-old father, Robert, took a turn for the worse from an infection attacking a heart valve. His sisters are with him, and urged O’Meara to join them.
“It was touch and go,’’ O’Meara said after opening with a 69. “I love my father dearly, and if I get the call, I’ll go home. But I believe my dad would have wanted me to play.’’
O’Meara was in Ireland at the start of last week for the J.P. McManus charity pro-am. When he arrived in St. Andrews on the weekend, he cried when he talked about his father. Some 20 years ago, before O’Meara won the claret jug at Royal Birkdale in 1998, they took a golf vacation together to St. Andrews.
“He shot 89, birdied the last hole,’’ O’Meara said, smiling at the memory. “I filmed his whole round. We hired two local caddies, and couldn’t understand them. I know what this place means to him.’’
O’Meara said he is unable to call because the intensive-care unit does not have phones in the room, but his father is alert enough to hold his sister’s hand.
“I feel very much at peace,’’ he said. “I’ve got to celebrate my father’s life. I can’t say, ‘Woe is me,’ because my father is sick.’’
While he is trying to provide inspiration for his father, O’Meara is finding inspiration from the past two Opens — Greg Norman leading after 54 holes at Royal Birkdale, and Tom Watson nearly winning last year at Turnberry.
“If you’re hitting the ball solidly . . . I know it’s a cliche, but the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are,’’ he said. “Power helps you around here, but you can play a lot of different shots.’’
His manager talked him into it, and it proved to be the right move.
Tiley earned one of three spots out of 94 players in local final qualifying earlier this month, earning his first trip to the British Open since he was an amateur at Royal Troon in 2004. Then, he played without a bogey for a 66.
“I’m pleased I took his advice,’’ Tiley said.
His professional career has been a bit rocky. Tiley went to college at Georgia State — where he played with Mark F. Haastrup of Denmark — and has been struggling to get by on the Asian Tour and smaller circuits in Europe.
But he won the Egyptian Open last year, and hopes better days are ahead.
The 1999 winner at Carnoustie was in the first group that went off yesterday at 6:30 a.m. The R & A noted that Lawrie woke up at 5 a.m. to get ready for the first round. Playing with him was Steve Marino, who awoke a tad earlier, at 3:30.
He and Lawrie each shot a 69, which seemed like a reasonable score at the time.
Still, they managed to feature him prominently on the back pages with references to his on-course conduct problems.
“Don’t screw up again, Tiger,’’ said the headline in The Sun, referring to comments by three-time Open champion Nick Faldo and R & A chief Peter Dawson.
“The world No. 1 has been slammed for turning the air blue, spitting and hurling his clubs around after wayward shots,’’ the paper said.
The Sun said Woods had not endeared himself to fans at the Old Course by skipping the No. 1 and No. 18 holes during practice.
“He needs to give something back to the sport,’’ Faldo was quoted as saying. “You give to them and they will give back, simple as that.’’
The Daily Mirror carried Faldo’s comments on Woods under the headline: “Troubled Tiger needs support of the Open crowd, now more than ever.’’