Royal Liverpool played like a dream on Thursday and it didn’t take long for Italian sensation Matteo Manassero to set out the early lead on five-under-par.
Van der Walt played his first round in an Open Championship, so it was a very different scenario for the 31-year-old, who was pleased to shoot one-under-par.
Any sub-par round in an Open Championship is good, and Van der Walt managed to break par largely because he made 12 out of 18 greens and avoided the long grass. An eagle three at the fifth hole got his round going, but it took some grind for the Pearl Valley member to reach the 18th at level-par for the day.
A par-five closing hole is always a treat and he took advantage, making the green in two and two-putting for a birdie at the last.
Also one-under-par for the first round was Branden Grace, whose passion for links golf stretches back to his days playing Fancourt links as a junior.
The four-time European Tour winner birdied four out of seven holes over a stretch that ran from the fourth to the 10th. He was two-under for the day at that point and made a number of good saves over the back nine, but an unfortunate bogey at the par-five 16th set him back to one-under, which was the score he retained all the way to the clubhouse.
“It’s pretty special here and I try to keep things as simple as possible. Not much has changed to this style of golf, so I stick to what has worked in the past and that seems to work out,” he said.
Manassero topped and tailed his round with birdies, but the entire 18 was fiery from the young Italian. He closed with three birdies over the final four holes to take an early hold on first place.