First Round Open Championship Observations

Courtesy: TourProGolfClubs.com

Courtesy: TourProGolfClubs.com

Just a couple of quick thoughts on the first day of the Open, with Zach Johnson holding a one-shot lead over Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Mark O’Meara.
 
Day One Leaderboard

  • 1. Zach Johnson -5
  • T2. Rafa Cabrera-Bello -4
  • T2. Mark O’Meara -4
  • T4. Miguel Angel Jimenez -3
  • T4. Dustin Johnson -3
  • T4. Brandt Snedeker -3
  • T4. Tom Lehman -3
  • T4. Shiv Kapur -3

Conditions
 
Coming into the week, we had heard that it was to be bright and sunny and that the wind wasn’t expected to be that bad. Both of those things were true on the first day, and apparently the R&A didn’t like that too much because the greens were brutally fast and the pin positions were very difficult. The greens will definitely need some watering overnight, as most of the grass appears to be just about dead. The players were not impressed either, with Phil Mickelson telling Geoff Shackelford that the afternoon groups would have it much more difficult than the morning crew:
 
“The greens are dying, and the holes are on edges of slopes that the ball just simply won’t stay. You drop it, it won’t stay by the hole. No. 8 is probably the worst one that you’ll see if you watch it on TV. It won’t stop until it collects in a little level area about eight feet away, six, eight feet away.”
 
Ian Poulter, shockingly, was not as politically correct:
 

 
Peter Dawson of the R&A disagreed with their assessment, but we’ll see what happens for the next few days.
 
Tiger Woods
 
Woods’ 69 today was pretty impressive considering the condition of the course by the time he teed off. Of course, that didn’t look like it would be the case at the very beginning of the day when he had to hit a provisional off the first tee because his ball went so far left. He managed to save bogey though, and seemed to be pretty solid after that. He had ten one-putts today, which you can’t really expect to continue, but having his putter in good form is a huge positive considering that’s been the big issue with him in the last few majors. He hit very few loose shots from what I saw on the broadcast, and he’s put himself in a position to keep chasing the guys at the top of the board. He should have some easier conditions tomorrow too considering he’ll be out early.
 
Rory McIlroy’s 79
 
I’ve been saying all year that I thought McIlroy was going to be fine, and I really do believe that to be the case, but quotes like these to the Washington Post are troubling:

“Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there, and I’m unconscious,” McIlroy said Thursday in the moments after his first round of the British Open.

“I just need to try to think more. I’m trying to focus and trying to concentrate. But yeah, I can’t really fathom it at the minute, and it’s hard to stand up here and tell you guys what’s really wrong.”

“It’s nothing to do with technique,” McIlroy said. “It’s all mental out there.”

“That’s just thoughtless,” he said. “It’s just so brain-dead. Seriously, I feel like I’ve been walking around out there like that for the last couple months. I’m trying to get out of it. I just don’t quite know why.”

“It’s strange,” he said. “I wish I could stand up here and tell you guys what’s wrong or what I need to do to make it right, because I feel like I’ve got the shots. It’s just a matter of going through the right thought process to hit them and that’s something that I obviously haven’t been doing recently.”

 
He’s probably going to miss the cut tomorrow unless he goes crazy low, which doesn’t appear likely at this point. Of course, the fact that he’s tied with Nick Faldo after round one was mentioned by just about everyone on Twitter after the spat they had in the last few days. My take on that was pretty simple really: Faldo probably just wants to help out a kid that he’s known forever, but if if he’s not inside McIlroy’s circle and knows how hard he works, he should probably keep his mouth shut. To McIlroy’s credit, he handled it with the grace and dignity that we’ve come to expect out of him.
 
Old guys at the top
 
Mark O’Meara (-4), Tom Lehman and Miguel Angel Jimenez (-3) are near the lead after the first round at the Open, and it’s not an uncommon sight here. Tom Watson and Greg Norman have both made runs here in recent years, but don’t get too excited about their chances just yet. The first day of a major typically produces this kind of result from several players, and then they fade as the days go on. Lehman did say though that he thinks Muirfield plays best for those who think their way around the course, and who have been there before. The three men above certainly fall into that category.
 
Thomas Bjorn broke a camera
 

 
That ESPN camera costs $80,000.
 
Quick Hits

  • Louis Oosthuizen pulled out of the event with an undisclosed injury. It’s the second major championship in a row that he’s had to back out of due to injury after doing the same thing at Merion. Peter Hanson also pulled out after five holes, citing a back injury.
  • The shitty thing about these two pulling out is that their playing stopped other players from getting in. Joost Luiten flew over to Muirfield as the first alternate in the event that someone pulled out before teeing off, but that didn’t happen. I don’t fault Oosthuizen and Hanson because they have earned the right to play, so they can do what they want, but I can’t imagine Luiten is overly impressed with guys who couldn’t get through the front nine.
  • After missing out on the win last week at the John Deere, Zach Johnson was on the good side of the draw, but he still took advantage. With all of the roll from the hard fairways, his lack of distance isn’t as much of an issue.
  • There’s very little that I would like to see more than a final pairing on Sunday of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Angel Cabrera.
  • Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano hit 17 of 18 greens today.
  • Shiv Kapur started out hot, with birdies on six of his first seven holes before falling down to 3-under par. Typical stuff that happens at an Open, as you rarely stay hot for an entire round.
  • Where in the hell did Todd Hamilton come from?
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