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British Open 2012 Leaderboard: Top Contenders After Day 1

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British Open 2012 Leaderboard: Top Contenders After Day 1
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Every serious contender goes into the British Open believing he can emerge victorious and capture the Claret Jug, but just one day at the major can bring even the most experienced golfers to their knees.

Phil Mickelson had a nightmare of a day on Thursday, shooting a three-over-par 73, but there were some who got off to a fast start.

Here's a look at my top contenders at the 2012 British Open through one round.

 

Adam Scott

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Adam Scott may have placed 25th at the British Open last year, but he blasted through the first round on Thursday (scoring a six-under-par 64) and he had some encouraging results before the major this year.

Scott cannot only drive the ball a long way (ranked 27th on tour, per PGATour.com), he is also 26th in greens in regulation this year (67.04 percent). 

Beyond that, the 32-year-old Australian placed eighth at the Masters, 15th at the U.S. Open and third at the AT&T National, his tuneup for the British Open.

Scott's driving accuracy (113th on tour) still worries me in the gloomy weather at Royal Lytham & St Annes, but he's been better in that category than such names as Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson. 

 

Tiger Woods

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I had Tiger Woods as my favorite headed into the British Open, and for good reason. 

Woods has played much better golf in 2012 than the past few years, notching three victories on tour, and his overall numbers have been much-improved, too.

Coming into Royal Lytham & St Annes, Woods ranked first in scoring average, 11th in greens in regulation and 26th in birdies per round, via PGA Tour.com.

But, perhaps most importantly, Woods' driving accuracy (46th on tour) has been way up this year, despite him being historically poor in that area. Woods hit 13 of 14 fairways on Thursday en route to a three-under-par 67.

 

Graeme McDowell

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Ever since missing the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in early June, Graeme McDowell has been much better.

He placed second at the U.S. Open, 16th at the Irish Open and 17th at the Alstom Open de France.

On top of that, McDowell's game this year is perfect for Royal Lytham & St Annes. He ranks second on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy (71 percent), not to mention being a solid putter (11th in putting per hole on tour).

McDowell actually ended up not driving the ball as accurately on Thursday (nine of 14 fairways hit), but he still finished the day with a three-under-par 67. That's because his putting was magnificent, averaging 1.44 putts per hole. If he can bring his putting and driving accuracy together, watch out for the 32-year-old from Northern Ireland.

 

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