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The early starters suffered the worst of the conditions in the opening round
Graeme McDowell, Rocco Mediate and Robert Allenby shot one-under 69s to end as co-leaders after a wet and windy day one of the Open at Royal Birkdale.
Veteran Australian Greg Norman, 53, countryman Adam Scott and American Bart Bryant are one stroke further adrift.
Favourite Sergio Garcia is in a group on 72, Colin Montgomerie took 73 and defending champion Padraig Harrington shrugged off a wrist injury to card 74.
Phil Mickelson (79) and Ernie Els (80) struggled in the morning conditions.
"It was miserable," said Australian Craig Parry, who teed off first in foul weather at 0630 BST. "It was an honour to hit the first tee shot but after that it got really hard."
The guys this morning looked like they had a really, really tough time out there
Graeme McDowell after a first round 69
South African Retief Goosen, Canada's Mike Weir and American Jim Furyk were among a large group on one over, while England's Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez joined Garcia in the pack on 72.
America's 2001 Open champion David Duval was another player to finish on 73, alongside England's Paul Waring and Frenchman Jean van de Velde.
Englishman Justin Rose went round in 74 during the worst of the weather, the same as 58-year-old playing partner and five-time Open champion Tom Watson, while Lee Westwood was five over after a 75.
Interview: Graeme McDowell
Northern Ireland's McDowell, who won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond on Sunday, set out just after midday and maintained his good form to follow Mediate home with two closing birdies.
"The guys this morning looked like they had a really, really tough time out there," said McDowell.
"We just had a bit of wind to deal with. It was blowing hard but you can always handle one or the other, wind or rain."
American Mediate is the man that took Tiger Woods to an 18-hole play-off for the US Open last month and the 45-year-old, who has never done better than 18th at the Open, also continued his hot streak.
"I love it here - it was fun and insane," he said. "It was just survival and by no means pretty.
"I made pretty much every single putt I could have and I chipped in on 17. There's a certain person who you all know who isn't here that does that a lot."
Norman, the champion in 1986 and 1993, is only an occasional tour player these days and last competed in the Open at St Andrews in 2005, but he made the most of his late start at Birkdale.
"I really don't play that much," said Norman. "I probably play more tennis than I do golf. I was just trying to get the clubhead square on the ball."
Rose, trying to better his fourth place as a 17-year-old amateur the last time the Open was at Birkdale 10 years ago, struggled with his game on the front nine but hung on with nine straight pars coming home.
Interview: Rocco Mediate
"I had an atrocious 6th where I did really well to make double bogey," he said. "From that point I was on the back foot. But all in all I guess it was a steady start. I think the test today was purely mental."
Montgomerie received plenty of vocal support as he compiled a round of three bogeys, one double bogey and two birdies.
"If you had offered me a 73 on the first tee I would have turned around straight away and gone back to the clubhouse," said Montgomerie.
World number two Mickelson's card included a triple-bogey seven at the 6th after he lost his ball in the right rough and was forced to take a penalty.
Els, the world number five and 2002 champion, ran up a triple-bogey at the short 14th and dropped four more shots on his way home for his worst-ever score at the Open.
The forecast for Friday is for more strong winds and rain showers, with sunny intervals in the afternoon.
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