Big guns Mickelson, Singh and Els fail to shine

SOUTHPORT Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:02pm EDT

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SOUTHPORT (Reuters) - Multiple major winners Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els saw their British Open title chances drift away on the Royal Birkdale winds on Thursday.

World number two Mickelson slid to a nine-over 79 while Singh and Els began their campaigns with matching 80s.

"Talk about my round?" Mickelson told reporters. "Well, it's not a fun topic of conversation.

"When I was six over through six I didn't think it was that bad a start relative to what the field would do. I thought most guys would be about two, three, four over through six."

"I thought anything in the 70s would be a pretty good score ... but I don't think it's going to hold up as well as I thought."

The American left-hander, a winner of three major titles, experienced his worst moment at the 499-yard par-four sixth.

Despite finding two balls of the same brand, Mickelson could not find his original within the requisite five minutes and eventually carded a triple-bogey seven.

"I lost my second shot," he said. "The wind and the rain grabbed it and took it off line."

World number 10 Singh, like Mickelson a three-times major champion, said he never felt as if he would hole a meaningful putt.

"I just couldn't stand over a putt and feel comfortable," said the Fijian. "You had rain blowing sideways, it was cold, windy but I didn't play badly.

"It was miserable, miserable, miserable weather ... just a miserable day."

Singh, who had only one birdie all day, struggled to an eight-over 42 on the front nine.

World number five Els, the 2002 champion at Muirfield, dropped nine shots after the turn en route to his worst start in 18 British Opens.

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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