ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - Twice major winner Retief Goosen shrugged off a torrid session on the practice range to shoot a six-under 66 in the British Open first round on Thursday.
The 46-year-old South African is without a victory since 2009 but showed few nerves as he mixed seven birdies with a solitary bogey on a day when the calm conditions and the soft and receptive greens led to a string of low scores.
"I hit the ball horrible on the driving range for some reason but once I got out on the course and started seeing and feeling the shots I needed, I hit it nicely," Goosen told reporters.
"I was struggling with the right to left breeze on the range. I kept pulling everything left so I was struggling to get the ball to start far enough right," he said after finishing one shot behind early leader Dustin Johnson of the U.S.
Goosen booked his ticket to golf's oldest major through pre-qualifying and is delighted to return after missing the event the last two years.
"It's nice to be back here at the Home of Golf," said the 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion. "The first time I played here I was 18.
"The last two Opens that were here I finished fifth and sixth so I do like the course. I would like to be there come Sunday and maybe have a chance, who knows?.
"This is definitely one of the best rounds I've played around here but there's a long way to go."
Goosen, who made his British Open debut at Sandwich in 1993, said it was always difficult to predict what was around the corner at the third major of the season.
"Mentally you need to be very strong and we'll just take it one day at a time, see what the weather is going to do," he explained.
"You never know what the weather is going to be like over here. The temperature in the last 45 minutes today suddenly dropped. It can be sunny one moment and very cold the next."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
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