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A perfect first day at the Open

The first day of the 2014 Open Championship will be remembered for many achievements and disappointments, but probably in the main for the almost abnormally good weather. Wind-still and warm with the course lush and green, experienced players such as Thomas Bjorn and Tom Watson couldn't recall when last they had played in a Major with weather like this on the first day.

Watson went on to say that the real links challenge hadn't yet taken place because the course was so benign and easy to play. In fact, Watson felt that the course was so easy that the first day was the day to "bank" some strokes in case the weather (and then the course) turned against you.

Try telling Ernie Els that the course was easy though. Playing in one of the premier groupings alongside defending champion Phil Mickelson and US Masters champion Bubba Watson, the Big Easy must have been licking his lips at the prospect of a really low round.

Those thoughts were gone as soon as he teed off, hooking it left and into the spectators. His ball struck one of the patrons on the head and then bizarrely bounced back in play. Surely a bit of good luck - would this be Els's day? His second shot was no less indifferent as he moved it from one thick section of rough to another, but worse was still to come.

Putting for par, the Big Easy missed it, leaving the ball right next to the hole for a tap in bogey, which he promptly missed. He then attempted to "backhand" the ball in with his putter, and missed again. He finally took a moment, gathered his thoughts and sunk the next putt, his seventh stroke! It was terrible to watch and you somehow knew this was the end of his challenge, even though he'd only played one hole. It got worse as he leaked shots all through the round and eventually signed for a 7 over par 79.

If Els had a shocking day, then Rory McIlroy had the most sublime day and showed what an amazing golfer he is. He fired a flawless 6 under par 66 and was in total control. However, McIlroy is infamous for his second round meltdowns. He calls them Freaky Fridays, where he inexplicably falls away in spectacular fashion and isn't able to challenge for the win come Sunday. The press asked Rory about that and even though he grinned at the question, he was steely and determined in his response, saying that there would no Freaky Friday at the Open.

It was also good to see up close another young gun in Matteo Manassero do well as he tamed the course in 67 shots and is one shot off the pace. Sergio Garcia looked good and Adam Scott fought hard for a gritty 4 under par 68.

However, the player that looked ominously good was Tiger Woods. Much had been said about his injury and that he was returning too soon. In fact, he looked comfortable and in control as he shot an opening round 69 and is lurking with intent on a star-studded leaderboard.

Today's second round of the Open will be important: for players like Els to see if he can fight back to survive the cut, for Woods to see if he really is back to his best and for McIlroy and even Garcia to show that their games had matured and they could kick on to take charge of the field. And with bad weather on the way, things may start to get more challenging on the course too.

Today will be the most important day of the championship.

Jeremy Harris is the sports anchor at 94.5 Kfm and 567 Cape Talk. He is a keen golfer and plays off a 6 at his home club, Arabella. He is the voice of the Sunshine Tour weekly highlights and monthly magazine programmes on Supersport. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremyharris55

Visit EWN's 2014 Open Championship Portal