On a day that demanded enormous patience and left much suffering, it was fitting that the first-round coleader of the British Open was a golfer named Job.

Many a man limped off the rain- and wind-swept Royal St. George's Golf Club links looking like a wet, whipped whelp. One of them was Jack Nicklaus, who shot 83, the highest score of his professional life.

Only two dazed and surprised gentlemen were able to equal par of 70 over the 6,829 unforgiving yards: England's Nick Job and Argentina's Vicente Fernandez. It was the first time since World War II that no one had broken par in the first round of this tournament.

Waist-high rough, all-day winds that stayed near 30 mph and an hour of heavy evening downpour contributed to an astronomical scoring average of 77 for the 153 players, 34 of whom couldn't break 80.

Behind the virtually unknown leaders, who both candidly and wisely discount their chances, are a half-dozen golfers delighted with their 71s: U.S. Open champion David Graham, Johnny Miller, 1969 British Open champ Tony Jacklin, Isao Aoki of Japan, amateur Hal Sutton and Simon Owen.

Even the holders of 72s, including Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Rogers, were proud.

"It's a survivor's golf course out there," said a soaked Tom Watson after his "real gutsy" 73 put the defending champion in a 12-way tie for 17th place, along with Jerry Pate and Sandy Lyle.

This was a round that will be remembered for horror stories, not heroics.

Nicklaus, who began his first British Open in 1962 at Troon with an 80 and had never been more than six over par in any round in this tournament since, played the worst stretch of golf of his career on the eighth through 14th holes.

On the section of holes known as "the loop", Nicklaus was looped, indeed, going bogey, bogey, double bogey, double bogey, double bogey, bogey, double bogey: 11 over par on seven holes.

"That's a loooooooong stretch of real bad golf," Nicklaus said, scratching the sand from seven traps out of his hair. "You know you're going bad when you take three straight double bogeys . . . and then it starts to rain.

"I suppose one day of your life you have to shoot your highest score," said Nicklaus, who could recall two 82s as a pro, one at the Crosby Pro-Am, but never an 83. "I'll say one thing: I tried on every shot."

Though Nicklaus denied that it affected him, it hardly could have helped that his son Steve was charged with drunk driving the day before after wrecking the family station wagon on Jack Nicklaus Freeway in Columbus, Ohio.

Nicklaus was not alone in his suffering. Craig Stadler hit two balls out of bounds on the par-5 14th hole during a hilarious 9 that was the lowlight of his 83. Lee Trevino birdied two of the first three holes, yet shot 35-42 -- 77. Severiano Ballesteros made three birdies, yet managed only 75.

Watson opened his title defense with a first-hole double-bogey 6 that could have been an 8 had not one spectator, wandering far from the center of the search area, found Watson's errant ball.

Some in the brave crowd of more than 20,000 even took to laughing openly at the pros. "I knocked a drive into that awesome bloody hole in the ground on the first hole (a 30-foot high bunker)," Graham said, "and two fellows took to laughing at me. I told 'em, 'If you want to laugh, you have two choices: either go to a circus or I'll bury this eight-iron in your head.'"

"If you have a nervous disposition, you could come off that course with shell shock," said British veteran Job, who was born here in Kent and lives in London. "Your hands are shaky to start with and if things go bad, you just get deeper and deeper.

"You can hear the people saying, 'Ooooh, is that boy really a pro?''' the robust redhead said, laughing.

"I've never won a tournament (as a professional), though I've always thought I could. However, the British Open for starters would be asking a bit much, I should have thought. I'm 300 to 1 with the bookies. I guess that must mean that someone put a pound (bet) on me. He'll be smiling today. But not for long."

The key to this miserable English summer day was, in Jacklin's words, "not to say, 'Oh, sod it,' and quit."

Many players, apparently, did, especially on the killing homeward holes in the wind.

The field was 1,065 strokes over par, and one illustrious threesome of "Barr-Regan-Lawrence" was 41 over.

The only person who had a good chance to break par was Fernandez, a slender, soft-spoken man who came to the 18th hole one under par.

But Fernandez, a first-round coleader in this Open 10 years ago at Birkdale (he failed to finish in the top 20), came unglued: his long-iron second shot on the 458-yard par-4 was so wild that it went over the grandstand to the right on a 100-yard slice.

Fernandez could be excused. The final two holes were the toughest, with stroke averages of 4.63 and 4.75; each of the gargantuan par-4s into the wind allowed only three birdies.

The bravest rounds of the day were played by Jacklin, Norman and Watson. The enormously popular Jacklin, the last Britisher to win the Open, is in the midst of a late-career comeback built on positive thinking. He needed it today, rallying after going four over par in the first four holes. Norman was even more spectacular. The great white shark from Australia stayed in contention with a 72 despite driving into the rough 11 times.

Watson was almost as wild, missing seven fairways and visiting five traps as he scrambled for pars on a day he might have shot 80.

Without question, the round's sentimental favorite was Palmer, who arrived here in the full bloom of 51-year-old confidence after winning the U.S. Senior Open title in a play-off Monday in Detroit. Except for a questionable rule at the 15th, which cost him at least one and perhaps two strokes, Palmer might have tied for the lead.

His second shot at the 467-yard par-4 came to rest a club length short of the grandstand behind the green, leaving him an impeded swing. Under normal golf rules, Palmer would have never allowed relief no nearer the hole. However, under Royal St. George's rules, Palmer could either play the ball as it lay or go to a drop area where the grass was thigh-high. Palmer argued and lost and ended up making double bogey.

"Arnold's 100 percent right," said Graham, who was in the same group. "And, besides, I might add that a ball drop area should not be in the middle of a jungle."

Maybe not at most places. But certainly at Royal St. George's.

All the questions asked for 32 years about this famous old course were answered with a rousing affirmative on this blustery, raw day that a club member categorized as, "Just a nice day for golf."

All the traffic and logistics problems that kept the Open away since 1949 seem to have been solved. What that means, both to Nicklaus and lesser members of the golfing kingdom, is that the sufferings of Job, as provided by Royal St. George's, may well be part of the future of the British Open for generations.