Humbled O’Meara still enjoyed his final Open

Mark O’Meara felt honored when the R&A asked him to hit the first shot of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, where he won the tournament in 1998.

Then the 60-year-old O’Meara, from Mission Viejo and Long Beach State, was reminded of how humbling golf can be when he hit the shot out of bounds and had to re-tee on his way to a triple-bogey 8 on the first hole, later signing for an 11-over-par 81.

“My name is on my golf bag, I’ve won the Open Championship, I’m in the Hall of Fame … and when you hit one straight right off the first tee out of bounds it’s the equivalent of standing on the first tee on Ballybunion and hitting the graveyard,” said O’Meara, who won his only other major earlier in 1998 at the Masters. ” … My day was toast after that first tee shot.

“But, look, at one point I felt like I was going to shoot 90 out there and I came away with an 81. It’s not like I haven’t shot 81 in my life. But I don’t care if you’re 30, 40, 50, 60, whatever age you are, you really play a lot for your pride. And I’m not very proud of what I accomplished out there today. I should have played better. I expect better.”

It turned out to be not such an easy assignment because it 6:30 a.m., it was raining and there was a strong wind blowing from left to right that carried O’Meara’s ball out of bounds.

Of course, it was of no consolation that a few of the younger players also hit their first shots in the same place.

O’Meara shot 81-70 — 151 and missed the cut by six strokes.

“I felt the warmth of the crowd (in round two), obviously, coming up the 18th hole,” said O’Meara, playing in the Open for the last time. “I’m not Tom Watson. I’m not Jack Nicklaus. I’m not Arnold Palmer. I’m just a guy who in ’98 was lucky to win the championship and hoist the Claret Jug and be proclaimed Champion Golf of the Year.

“I just wanted to play respectively. I didn’t really have a set score. Obviously I knew that after four or five holes yesterday that the cut was going to be kind of out of the equation. But today to hang in there and battle in there and make some good pars and then a few birdies, you know, I hit some better shots today, I really did.

“So did I hit it great? No. But if I had hit it really good, I would be playing on the weekend.”

O’Meara, who first played in the Open in 1981 at Royal St. George’s, gets another chance next week against guys his own age in the Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Bridgend, Wales.

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