LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Lee Westwood looked glumly at his ball lodged up against the side of a pot bunker and considered his options. Unfortunately, none of them involved a normal swing in the direction of the hole.
So, he turned around, whacked at the ball lefthanded with a righthanded club, and settled for just getting it back into the fairway.
Yep, another bogey.
Westwood, generally considered the best golfer never to win a major, limped to the finish with a disappointing 3-over-par 73 Thursday in the opening round of the British Open.
What made it even worse was that Royal Lytham & St. Annes was ripe for the taking, the rain largely holding off, the breeze from the Irish Sea barely rippling the flags.
‘‘Just one of those things,’’ he said with a shrug. ‘‘You can’t have great form all the time.’’
Westwood wasn’t the only local favorite to disappoint in a year when the home country had high hopes of snapping a 43-year drought in golf’s oldest major.
Ian Poulter plodded to a 71. Paul Casey collapsed on the back nine and signed for a 72. Justin Rose had a miserable day all around, winding up with a 74. The only Englishmen to shoot in the 60s were former cricket player James Morrison (68) and up-and-comer Matthew Baldwin (69), who actually made a point to get Westwood’s autograph during a practice round — then outplayed him when it counted.
Another crowd pleaser, defending champ Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, joined in the misery. After a near-perfect tee shot on the par-3 opening hole, he struck a terrible putt from about 10 feet that never had a chance. It was pretty much all downhill from there on the way to a 76. Only seven players posted a higher score.
‘‘I don’t think you could publish my thoughts right now,’’ Clarke told reporters when he came off the 18th green.
But players such as Westwood (ranked third in the world) and Rose (No. 9) were expected to shine. Poulter, who was runner-up at Birkdale in 2008 and has played well in the pressure-cooker environment of Ryder Cup, also was rated as a potential challenger by no less than Tony Jacklin, who way back in 1969 won at this very same course.
Jacklin remains the last English golfer to capture an Open title in England (Nick Faldo’s three titles all came in Scotland). Now, barring a major turnaround, it looks as though the streak will grow.
World No. 1 Luke Donald was the best of the English elite, putting up an even-par 70 that only looked so-so given the calm conditions. A staggering 36 players shot in the 60s, leaving Donald with plenty of competitors to pass and a six-shot deficit to make up on the leader, Australia’s Adam Scott.
The group of Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, and Rose didn’t see too many mobile phones in the gallery.
At least for the first few holes. Before long, spectators ignored the signs that no pictures were allowed. There were dozens of them, including one fan using it to capture video. Even so, it wasn’t near the distraction it was at Hoylake in 2006, when players were backing off shots.
There was one problem with Garcia. He was trying to hit a shot out of deep rough on the 15th hole when a young man with a bulging waist line and a pint of beer in his hand took a picture. Because it wasn’t on silent, the sound caused Garcia to back off his shot.
Marshals barked a reminder that no cameras were allowed. The man secretly slid the phone in his front pocket — just as the ringer went off when he received a call.
Watson shines again
Tom Watson continues to defy his age. The 62-year-old Watson, who lost in a playoff at Turnberry three years ago, was 1 under until two bogeys on the last three holes for a 71 . . . Only three players who led after the first round in the Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes have gone on to win: Seve Ballesteros in 1988, Gary Player in 1974, and Peter Thomson in 1958 . . . Woods made a birdie on the par-3 opening hole. The last time he began a British Open with a birdie also was in 2001 at Royal Lytham . . . Zach Johnson, one shot out of the lead after a 65, can join Lee Trevino as the only players to win the British Open the week after a PGA Tour victory. Trevino won the Canadian Open in 1971 and the Open the following week at Royal Birkdale . . . Robert Karlsson withdrew Wednesday during a practice round. “Have got into some bad habits in my game and routine that I need to address. Taking a few weeks off,” he tweeted.