But O’Meara rolled in a curling, 35-foot eagle putt at the 17th, lipped out a birdie putt at the tough 18th, and finished with a 67, tied with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and just one stroke off the lead.
Not that it’s unusual for an old-timer to play well in the Open. Four years ago, Tom Watson nearly won at age 59. For that matter, O’Meara wasn’t even the only 50-something player on Thursday’s leaderboard.
Fifty-four-year-old Tom Lehman shot 68.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson and qualifier Shiv Kapur joined Lehman at two shots back. Kapur, a 31-year-old from India who plays on the Asian Tour, actually led for a while after making birdies on six of the first seven holes, turning with a dazzling 30. A double-bogey at the 10th knocked him back.
Another stroke behind were major champions Woods, Mickelson, Angel Cabrera and Todd Hamilton, along with up-and-comer Spieth, whose John Deere victory got him into the Open. The teenager hardly looked out of place, making only one bogey the entire round.
Hamilton’s 69 certainly looked out of place. He now plays on a minor-league circuit in the U.S., and this was his lowest round in the Open since he improbably won the championship in 2004.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I hit a couple of drives early with the driver and made a few putts and that kind of settled me down, and I didn’t try to do a lot of stuff that I didn’t feel comfortable doing.”