The conditions on the first morning at Royal Birkdale are atrocious. It’s the worst Open weather since the third round at Muirfield in 2002. At present it’s looking like a level par round is going to be beyond most, if not all, competitors.

As I write, the name that tops the leaderboard is a familiar, if unexpected, one. Five-time Open Champion Tom Watson started with a birdie and is still level par through five holes. His exemption runs out in 2010 so the 58-year-old needs another victory if he’s going to be at Royal St Georges in 2011. Something tells me his tenure at the top of the leaderboard may be short-lived.

Neil and I were discussing just how difficult it actually is for the pros when the weather is like this. It’s certainly not as tough for them as it would be for you or me. The wind obviously affects the way they play their shots but they’ve got every skill in the book and should be able to comfortably play the low punch and “stinger” drive. When it comes to the rain, they’ve got the best waterproofs money can buy; they have a caddy taking the brunt of the weather on the chin and doing everything to keep their man dry. In fact, the only time they get a little wet is during the 30 seconds for which they pop out from under their huge umbrella to hit their shots. When they do, they have the benefit of dry glove and grips. It’s a picnic.

As the rain pounds down on the roof of the media centre I’ve just seen Harrington hack it out of the deep rough to the left of the sixth – his wrist seemed to hold up to the test.

Watson’s just bogeyed the tough sixth and he’s fallen off the top of the perch. Oh well, at least he can say he led the Open at the age of 58.