Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. The first round of the Open Championship was a wet and breezy affair at Royal Portrush. Scores ranged from 66 to 91 as players jockeyed for position in Northern Ireland. J. B. Holmes shot a first-round 66 to top the leaderboard, but 19 players are within three shots.
Setting the pace
J. B. Holmes started with a bogey on Thursday, but the rest of his round was (slow-)cooked to perfection. He made six birdies and hit more than 80% of his fairways and greens. J. B. has only two career top 10s in majors.
One shot back of Holmes is Shane Lowry, who shot 67 on Thursday. Lowry recently broke out of a multi-year slump with a victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He finished in the top 10 in the 2014 Open, but has missed the cut in each of his last four tries.
Tied for third at -3 is a 13-strong crowd. Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, and Sergio García are among the big names who shot 68. Also in the group are Lee Westwood, still finding the middle of the clubface at age 46, and Dylan Frittelli, who was the last man in the field after his victory last week at the John Deere Classic. Open Championship Leaderboard
Portrush is my favorite prog rock band – What a freaking golf course. Not only are the aerial views of the Dunluce Links stunning, but the details on the ground—the contours in the fairways and around the greens, the subtle shaping of the bunkers, the varied colors of the grasses—are captivating to watch in action. It’s a hard golf course, even malevolent at times, yet it yields birdies to precise play. This is what you want out of a championship venue.
Pride of Northern Ireland – Darren Clarke launched the championship in style. He striped his opening drive, drained a birdie putt on the 1st hole, birdied two of his next four, and proceeded to hold or share the lead for the ensuing two-plus hours, all while ripping heater after heater. Ultimately Clarke faltered on the back nine and finished at even par, but he did his home country proud.
Death, taxes… – When are we finally going to get it together and start picking Brooks Koepka to win every major? While the telecast inexplicably didn’t catch much of it, Koepka’s first round was classic Brooksy-on-a-big-game-hunt stuff. Nothing eye-popping—he was just hole high seemingly everywhere, and when putts dropped, he made birdies. He finished two back of J. B. Holmes, and he spoke after the round about thinking as little as possible and just hitting it where his Portrush-native caddie Ricky Elliott points. BK’s a dangerous man, folks.
The fuse is lit – How fun would a Tyrell Hatton-Jon Rahm pairing be on the weekend? Either one of them alone is combustion risk, but together? Nuclear. Both are -3, and at times Rahm held the lead alone on Thursday. We like to think he was inspired—i.e., stirred into a frothy rage—by press-conference questions about his absurd Wimbledon outfit (“I’d rather not go to a Royal Box with a starred shirt,” he said plaintively) and Thomas Pieters’s snarky tweet about it. Pair a simmering Rahm with the always ornery Hatton on Saturday or Sunday, and you have guaranteed entertainment.
What does the Fox say? – After playing the front nine in three over, Kiwi journeyman Ryan Fox blistered Portrush on the way in, making six birdies and shooting 29. He sits two back going into Friday.
Stinky OB – Some folks, including Geoff Shackelford, are none too happy about the prevalence of internal out-of-bounds lines at Royal Portrush.
Rory not comin’ – Brutal. Here he is on home soil, serving as unofficial ambassador of the first major championship in Northern Ireland since 1951, and he yanks his first tee shot OB and makes an 8. “This is the cruelest thing imaginable,” Marty Carr told Alan Shipnuck as they followed along. “I feel this in my heart.” A few hours later, Rory signed for a 79 and gave a couple of resigned-sounding interviews. Check out Brendan Porath’s excellent recap of this and other happenings that most Americans slept through.
Wincy McWoodson – Winces, foul balls, stiff-backed climbs in and out of bunkers, and flop shots that didn’t flop. Add it all up and you get a first-round 78 for Tiger Woods. It was a tough day for Cat and Cat fans alike. Northern weather and heavy rough just don’t seem to suit him at this stage of his career.
Duval debacle – Through four holes, the 2001 Open champion was two under. Three holes later, he was 12 over and on his way to carding a 91. His initial score of 15 on No. 7 was eventually revised down to 14. An excerpt from the R&A’s report: “David lost his first two balls from the tee and then played a wrong ball for the third ball played from the tee.” Oof.
Phil has no juice – In unsurprising fashion, Phil Mickelson shot a first-round 76 on Thursday. He told the media that this would have been an off week if it were any other tournament, but his admiration for the Open brought him to Portrush. But it appears that this admiration doesn’t translate into a belief that he can win the tournament.
The players seem to agree that Royal Portrush is a “fair links test.” That got Garrett Morrison thinking about the drawbacks to our modern devotion to fairness in golf. Full story
Six thoughts from Thursday at the Open
Mildly delirious from a lack of sleep and a surplus of caffeine, Andy riffs on home games in golf, Brooks Koepka’s lag putting, Tiger Woods’s chilly-weather issues, and Lee Westwood’s enduring beauty and perfection. Full story
As entertaining as a Rahm-Hatton pairing would be, it would have nothing on the 1875 foursomes battle at North Berwick between the Morrises of St. Andrews (Old and Young Tom) and the Parks of Musselburgh (Willie Sr. and Mungo). Get your hands on our print honoring that match here.