British Open: Amateur Tom Lewis shoots record 65

England's Tom Lewis reacts after putting on the 18th green after finishing his round during the first day of the British Open Golf Championship at Royal St George's golf course Sandwich, England, Thursday, July 14, 2011.
AP Photo/Peter Morrison

SANDWICH, England - Tom Lewis, named after one of the British Open's greatest champions, lived up to it on Thursday when the 20-year-old amateur shot a 5-under 65 to share the lead after the opening round.

The day was even more special because he played alongside the man he was named after: Five-time Open champion Tom Watson.

"I was more nervous not to embarrass myself in front of him," Lewis said.

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No worries there. Lewis pulled off some Watson-like shots at Royal St. George's, making four straight birdies towards the end before a par-saving tap-in at the 18th left him tied with Thomas Bjorn.

"He could be my grandson," quipped the 61-year-old Watson, who needed seven more strokes than his namesake to get around the course. "I just had to smile inside watching him play. I didn't play particularly well myself, but I certainly was impressed by the way he played."

Lewis' late-afternoon charge was definitely impressive, but it didn't totally overshadow an early morning round by Bjorn, who was playing at this course on the English seaside for the first time since his meltdown in the 2003 Open.

That Sunday, he threw away a two-stroke lead in the final three holes — who can forget him needing three swings just to escape the bunker at No. 16? — and allowed Ben Curtis to snatch away the claret jug with one of the sport's most shocking upsets.

Two very different players.

Two hugely compelling stories atop the leaderboard.

"I'm 40 years old," Bjorn said, "and there might just be a little bit more in me."

Long after the Dane had completed his round — he was done by lunchtime — an English amateur half his age surged up the board by taking full advantage of the afternoon calm that had this place ripe for the taking.

Lewis posted the lowest round ever for an amateur in the British Open, beating the 66 posted by Frank Stranahan in 1950 and matched by Tiger Woods (1996) and Justin Rose (1998). The youngster also became the first amateur to lead a round at a major since 1976, when Mike Reid was up by three strokes heading to the second day of the U.S. Open.

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"We certainly have a new young breed out here, don't we?" Watson marveled. "We have a lot of young players playing very good golf."

An older one didn't do so badly, either.

Bjorn has struggled since the death of his father two months ago, breaking down in tears when asked what affect the loss had on him.

"He meant a lot to me," the golfer said. "He would have been very proud of what I did."

Bjorn certainly isn't dwelling on what happened eight years ago, the last time the Open was held just up the road from the cliffs of Dover.

"A lot of people make a lot of things about that, but the only way I can play golf is to concentrate on the shot in front of me," he said. "It never entered my mind."

Bjorn got some good fortune at the 16th this time. He thought his 9-iron was headed for the bunker, but the ball took a fortunate bounce and rolled down toward the cup. He made the putt for his third birdie in a row.

"We all know what it's like," Bjorn said. "A bounce here or there, and then it goes either wrong or right. Today, it went my way."