British Open 2012: Phil Mickelson and Other Stars Crumbling Early

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British Open 2012: Phil Mickelson and Other Stars Crumbling Early
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While notable golf names such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott are on or near the top of the leaderboard, much farther down the board sits the names of players who also came to Lancashire, England looking to make a splash.

Sadly for them, it looks like their Open title chances are minute after just 18 holes. Maybe they didn’t hear that this is not one of those times where you want to make it home for the weekend. Here are some famous faces whose new motto might have to be “maybe next year” for their Open title hopes.

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood Needing to Rebound

America’s most lovable golfer, Mickelson started the year out right with a third-place finish at the Masters. He struggled to a 65th-place showing at the U.S. Open however, and is currently outside of the cut at three-over through 16 holes.

It was not lucky sevens for Mickelson, who zoomed over par by hitting his tee shot into the deep rough and finishing with a double-bogey on a par-five seventh hole generally considered among the easier holes at the Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s course. Jolly bad.

Lee Westwood is beginning to remind me of his fellow Brit, tennis star Andy Murray. Both have proven they can compete with the world’s best, but neither has a major championship to show for it. They will win tournaments from time to time, but titles like Westwood’s BMW International Open win won’t be in my future son’s sports almanac 20 years down the line.

Murray lost in the Wimbledon title match, and now it looks like the presumptive English favorite for the Open in Westwood could be powerless to end England’s 43-year drought in their home championship.

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Westwood opened with two birdies, but a double bogey on the third hole erased his early momentum in an instant. He recovered on the front nine, but bogeyed four of the final six holes of the round to finish at three-over.

Mickelson and Westwood are not too far out from making the cut, and I trust them to have solid rounds on Friday to stick around for 36 more holes.

Winning the whole shebang is the near-impossible part. A huge factor in this is the weather. Why? Tiger Woods’ intensity scared the rain away. Well, not really. Nonetheless, the rain disappeared and the wind is hardly a factor, reports Paul Newberry of the AP.

This resulted in near-perfect conditions for low-score golf. Adam Scott tied the course record with a six-under 64, but is anything but safe with three players just one stroke behind him. That being said, a run by Mickelson or Westwood might be too little too late in what looks to be a low-scoring affair if the weather keeps up.

A quick fall from grace for these two

Last year’s winner Darren Clarke brought elation to his native Northern Ireland, making it a three-peat for the small province of England after Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell won the two major championships prior. Repeat? Not this year.

Clarke had three bogeys in a row, all on long par-four's, down the stretch en route to a six-over 76. With a score of three-over on both the front and back nine, Clarke was consistent. Consistently bad. Now, he’ll need a revitalizing round tomorrow in order to even stick around for 36 more holes.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Darren Clarke isn't having much luck defending his Open title.

2010 U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer is also continuing his slide down the mountain of professional golf, finishing with a seven-over score of 77.

Just last year, Kaymer reached the world No. 1 ranking. Now, he is down to 15th and looks to slide further. He is five shots behind making the current cut after just one day, and only two golfers in the field of 156 finished day one with a worse score.

Summary

Every major tournament, there always seems to be a few stars whose performance baffles us to how they actually won a major or performed at an elite level. These four, as well as former Open champions Ben Curtis, Justin Leonard, and David Duval find themselves heading in the wrong direction one day in.

They aren’t down and out yet, but they will have some major work to do Friday to stay longer at golf’s most prestigious tournament (pun intended). 

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