Some of the top golfers in the world hit the links in Scotland on Thursday for the first round of the 2013 Scottish Open. Castle Stuart Golf Links played easy for most of the field, as more than 50 percent of players finished the day under par.
John Parry, who shot an eight-under 64, will enter Friday with a one-shot lead over fellow countryman Simon Kahn. Several players are just a few shots behind the pair of England natives, including many players we’re accustomed to reading about in newspapers and online.
How did the biggest names in golf perform during the opening round of the Scottish Open? Here’s a look at the first-round scores of three of the game’s best, with news, notes and analysis on how they played, what worked, what didn’t, and what they need to do on Friday and over the weekend in order to come away with a victory.
Phil Mickelson, Six Under
Mickelson has had the definition of a disappointing season. While he’s had some great rounds and top finishes, he’s yet to win any big tournaments. The only tournament he won came back in February when he finished the Waste Management Phoenix Open at 28 under.
Lefty is hoping a strong week in Scotland will lead to success next week, when he looks to win the British Open for the first time in his career. He’s also looking to avenge his one-hole playoff loss to Gregory Havret in 2007 at the Scottish Open. Through one day of play, he’s in good position to finish toward the top.
Mickelson had a very inconsistent performance on the back nine of the course. He bogeyed the 10th hole, eagled the 12th and shot the final five at two under to finish the nine holes at three under. The front nine was much cleaner, as Lefty didn’t bogey a hole and birdied the first, third and sixth holes.
Mickelson will only be two shots off the lead when he steps into the opening tee box on Friday, and he has to like that. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 15 greens. He needs to do a little bit better putting, though. He had 31 putts on Friday, which works out to 1.72 per hole. If he perfects his game on the green, the field better watch out.
Thorbjorn Olesen, Five Under
Olesen has had a very up-and-down season on the PGA Tour in 2013. He finished in seventh place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then withdrew from the Shell Houston Open. Two weeks later, he tied for sixth place at the Masters. This guy has only been a pro for five years—finishing tied for sixth is incredibly impressive.
But it’s been all bad news since the Masters. Olesen was cut from the Zurich Classic, The Players and, most recently, the U.S. Open. Olesen really needs to a good showing in Scotland for his confidence. Another cut from a tournament isn’t going to do any good for the Dane.
Olesen couldn’t have been any better on Thursday, and I’ll let him tell you why:
Olesen finished the opening round at five under and just three shots off the lead. He really took advantage of the par-fives, as he birdied all four of them. He did miss six fairways throughout the round, but he made up for it by hitting 15 greens and putting well. He needs par-fives to keep being his friends in order to win the tournament.
Ernie Els, Par
Who would’ve thought Els would finish in the top 10 at the U.S. Open this year? The four-time major champion could use another solid finish to springboard him to the British Open, which he’s won twice in his career. Speaking of twice, Els has also won the Scottish Open on two occasions. It doesn’t seem like 2013 will be No. 3, though.
Els didn’t have a very clean round, and it really hurt his chances of staying toward the top of the leaderboard. The South African shot even par on Thursday, taking advantage of the par-fives but failing to stay in the red with some poor shots on the par-threes and par-fours throughout Castle Stuart Golf Links.
Els was one over by the time he got to the back nine, as he birdied both par-fives but bogeyed the fourth and two of the last three holes. The back nine started off well for Els, as he birdied two of the first three, but he couldn’t keep it together for the remaining holes of the round. He bogeyed the 15th to finish at even par.
There’s no question Els struggled often on Thursday. He only hit half of the fairways and just 11 greens. He needs to be much more accurate off the tee to set himself up for birdie opportunities. Hitting his tee shots into the rough is not going to help him make the cut.