Not a single score begins with an “8″. Hard to imagine…unless you consider how docile the weather was for the first round of The Open Championship. The “calm” conditions led to some low numbers. Some pretty darn good numbers.
Adam Scott holds the round 1 lead after shooting a 6-under-par 64. Hard to believe considering the Aussie was +1 after his first three holes. From holes 4 to 16, Scott would run off a total of eight birdies. He had the opportunity with a birdie on the 18th to card a 62, a record. Instead, Scott would bogey the final of the day and “settle” for his 64.
If you had guessed that Zach Johnson would be low American after the first round, you might have turned a few heads, but maybe not as much as some suspect. Johnson, coming off a win at the John Deere, is attempting to match the feat pulled off by Lee Trevino in 1971 in winning a tournament the week previous to The Open and win the Claret Jug. Johnson is in a good position to do so as he’s only one shot back at -5. As is usually the case with Johnson, he was steady with his play and only had two bogeys to go along with his seven birdies.
Sitting with Johnson at -5 is 1999 Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie. Some may remember Lawrie as the beneficiary of Jean van de Velde’s gaffe at Carnoustie. What is sometimes forgotten is that not only was there a playoff, but there was a third involved in that playoff, Justin Leonard. Lawrie has been finding his game all year and today’s 65 should serve notice that the Scot is back on track after struggling for a few years. He has struggled as of late (MC at the Scottish Open and 33rd at the Irish Open), but he did win at Qatar Masters in February. He also owns a 2nd at the BMW PGA Championship and a 3rd at the Volvo Match Play.
Joining Johnson and Lawrie is Belgian Nicholas Colsaerts. Watch this long hitter. If he keeps the ball out of the bunkers and tall grass, he can play a key role. He leads the European Tour in driving distance, 7th in strike average, and 11th in greens in regulation. If he doesn’t findway the short grass, he does possess the ability to still find the green, a must at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Maybe a bigger surprise than Lawrie might be American Brandt Snedeker. He missed the cut at The Players and withdrew after the second round of The Memorial. A rib injury forced him to withdraw from the US Open without even playing a hole. He did play at The Greenbrier, but he missed the cut there. He was coming into The Open with little, if any, momentum. Maybe a 66 will add a little his way.
As far as the big names…
Tiger Woods carved himself a nice round of 67, -3. He played well on the outward nine (30), but did have one hiccup at the 15th. That was also the only fairway Woods missed during his round. He also posted no birdies on the inward nine.
Masters champ Bubba Watson also posted a 67. So did Graeme McDowell. As did Ernie Els. And don’t forget Peter Hanson and Steve Stricker.
The big names that didn’t fare so well include Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, both currently at +3. Westwood was one of the “sexy picks” coming into the tournament.
And how can we forget Rory McIlroy who among that group at -3. His day might have been the most noteworthy of any player regardless of score.
Heading to the 15th tee, Rors was at that number of -3. His tee shot didn’t quite find the fairway. Instead, his ball sailed to the right and found the noggin of 16-year-old Jason Blue who was attending his first ever Open Championship. The bounced off Blue’s head and ended up 20 yards away…and OB. That in itself is a bit of a raw deal as the ball landed in what is termed as internal out of bounds, something that Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo ripped the decision of marking the right side as such. He noted that Rory’s ball landed not far from the locale where Seve Ballesteros had a ball land back in 1979 when Seve won.
McIlroy would have to go back to the tee. A double-bogey 6 would go on his card. But his day would actually have a more pleasant end…and he would present Blue with a surprise.
First, McIlroy would birdie two of his three final holes to get back to -3. Considering what he had to overcome at the 15th, it makes his finish even better, McIlroy himself said his dinner would taste better due to his finish.
As I was watching the Golf Channel’s wrap-up telecast, Steve Sands noted that McIlroy found out that Blue and his brother were staying in a tent. That didn’t sit well with the world’s number 2 player. He put Blue in his brother up at a local hotel (on Rory’s “account”) and gave them a little spending cash.
Sure this kid is 23.