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Saltman suffers hackers' curse as first hole bares its teeth

By Martyn Herman

GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Sunday morning hackers know the feeling well. You step on the first tee and duff your first tee shot out of bounds, then take another ball and do exactly the same.

Scotland's Lloyd Saltman did just that at Muirfield on Thursday when he began his British Open challenge with a first-hole horror show which ended with an ugly quadruple-bogey eight.

Saltman, who grew up just down the road in Edinburgh and knows the local links courses well, was part of the first group to tee off in almost perfect conditions.

However, the 447-yard par four hole, with its tight fairway flanked by knee-high rough, proved too much for the 27-year-old who took three tee shots to get a ball in play.

His first effort cleared a 20-foot high screen bordering the tented village and his second was heard to "hit an object".

Neither ball was found and Saltman's third tee shot landed just right of the fairway, after which he played the hole in exemplary fashion, finding the green with his approach and two-putting before glumly striding to the second tee.

While winds, as predicted were light, the course was proving precarious on the opening morning as the narrow fairways, thick rough and steep-sided bunkers took their toll.

The opening hole, rated as one of the toughest of all the Scottish links courses, was particularly brutal and Saltman was not alone in coming a cropper.

American Brooks Koepka, making his Open debut, also took an eight and Britain's Chris Wood and American Bud Cauley began with triple-bogey sevens.

Australia's Jason Day, strongly fancied to win the title after finishing third at the Masters and second at the U.S. Open, also came to grief with a six, although he repaired the damage with a couple of birdies before the turn.

After 60 of the 156 starters had passed through only four birdies had been seen on the first, one of which was sunk by early leader Miguel Angel Jimenez.

British title hope Ian Poulter, wearing a pair of tartan trousers, did locate the first fairway but still began his challenge with a bogey on a hole averaging 4.5 early on.

"You're asking how the rough is at Muirfield. I thought it was hay. Big tip for week: Hit it on the mowed stuff," Poulter said on his Twitter page on the eve of the tournament.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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