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Young amateur makes history at windswept British Open

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Opening round at the British Open
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thomas Bjorn takes early clubhouse lead in first round of British Open
  • Danish golfer, whose father died in May, cards five-under-par 65 in Sandwich
  • He is joined at the top by 20-year-old English amateur Tom Lewis as they lead by one
  • U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy battles back from bad start to card 71

(CNN) -- While the eyes of golfing world were on rising star Rory McIlroy on Thursday, two surprise names claimed the first-round lead at the British Open.

A tearful Thomas Bjorn overcame the recent death of his father to shoot a superb five-under-par 65 despite difficult early conditions -- then late in the day 20-year-old amateur Tom Lewis shocked everyone by joining him at the top of the leaderboard with a record-breaking effort.

The duo share a coach, but apart from that their stories could not be more different.

The 40-year-old Bjorn was able to tee off at Royal St. George's -- where he blew his best chance of winning a major title in 2003 after squandering a four-shot lead on the last day -- only after several players pulled out, including Tiger Woods and lastly Vijay Singh on Monday.

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The Dane, 11 times a winner on the European Tour, has made the halfway cut just twice since his father passed away in May following a long illness, but at the windswept English links course he rediscovered the form that earned him two winning Ryder Cup appearances.

Analysis from the British Open

"Dad meant a lot to me," the world No. 80 told reporters before wiping tears from his eyes. "He would have been very proud of what I did today. That's all I've really got to say about that.

"Today was a massive step in the right direction for me. I have been finding golf extremely difficult but I did a lot of work with (coach) Pete (Cowen) yesterday and some things just started to make a bit of sense.

"I don't know if I can keep this up for the rest of the week. The start-all-over process has taken a lot longer than I wanted to, but I suppose that's part of the process. Let's just say I have realized this year there's more important things in life than golf."

Lewis has already tasted success at Royal St. George's, having won the British boys' amateur title there in 2009.

His father Brian, a former tour professional, named him after five-time British Open champion Tom Watson -- who was one of the Englishman's playing partners, with the 61-year-old American ending the day equal 71st after a 72.

Showing no nerves in such illustrious company, Lewis carded the lowest round by an amateur at golf's oldest tournament, surpassing the 66 shot by Frank Stranahan in 1950, Tiger Woods (1996) and Justin Rose (1998).

He also became the first non-professional to lead the tournament after the opening round since 1968.

When we started, I heard a lot of shouts like, 'Come on Tom' but I suspect they might have been for the other Tom
--Tom Lewis
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  • Rory McIlroy
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"It was really great out there today," Lewis told reporters. "When we started, I heard a lot of shouts like, 'Come on Tom' but I suspect they might have been for the other Tom, not me. But in the end I thought maybe there were a few for me, -- it would be nice to think so anyway."

Lewis birdied four of his last five holes to catch Bjorn as they took a one-shot advantage into Friday's second round from Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez and Americans Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson.

Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open, finished with three successive birdies while Simpson -- still seeking his first professional title -- picked up shots at the last two.

They were two shots ahead of a group of 12 players tied for sixth place, including U.S. PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell and former European Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke.

Among that cluster was American debutant Kyle Stanley, a 23-year-old who qualified for the 140th staging of the tournament when he finished second at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic last weekend.

McIlroy, playing for the first time since winning his breakthrough major at the U.S. Open three weeks ago, battled back from a bad start to card a one-over 71 for a share of 51st.

The 22-year-old bogeyed two of his first three holes, but responded with birdies at the eighth, 13th and 17th holes to match the score of world No. 1 Luke Donald, second-ranked Lee Westwood, U.S. Open runner-up Jason Day of Australia and South Africa's Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

The Northern Irishman, seeking to be the youngest winner since 1893, led last year at St Andrew's after a first-round 63, but crashed with 80 in the second.

"I struggled a bit with my speed all day on the greens, but it was a day where you just needed to grind out a score, and anywhere around even par was a good start," McIlroy said.

"On a day like this you can shoot a high number and put yourself out of the golf tournament, so it was nice to go out and shoot a decent score. I feel like if you keep it around level par this week you're going to have a good chance."

Donald, who like Westwood has never won a major, is one of the favorites following his victory at last weekend's weather-shortened Scottish Open.

The Englishman carded two birdies and a bogey in his front nine, but dropped three shots between 11 and 15 before pulling one back at 17.

They were a shot better off than American Phil Mickelson, who was in another sizeable group tied for 36th on 70 that also included Spain's Sergio Garcia, after carding two birdies and two bogeys.

Mickelson's compatriot John Daly, the 1995 winner, was tied for 71st on 72 along with South Africa's 2002 champion Ernie Els and reigning titleholder Louis Oosthuizen.

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