Two nationalities dominated the Open Championship’s early leaderboard on Day 1 at Muirfield as the American and Spanish contingent posted a series of below-par scores. At one stage, the top nine places were all occupied by members of the two countries, as the British players struggled to stay in contention.
It was also a day of misery for some, as Rory McIlroy’s woes continued with a horrid eight-over 79 and 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover carded a nine-over 80.
But for every McIlroy there was a Zach Johnson, who stood out early on with a great display. Here’s the rundown of the early standout performers.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (4 Under Par)
The award for top Spaniard looked like it was heading to one of golf’s biggest characters, Miguel Angel Jimenez.
The 49-year-old birdied the first three holes before sinking further below par on the front nine, but he couldn’t maintain his level and dropped a couple of shots on his way in.
That left Cabrera-Bello to march in with a topsy-turvy 67, which saw him card six birdies and two bogeys to leave him perfectly placed.
The No. 100 golfer in the world has yet to win a tournament in 2013—in fact, he’s barely won in his entire career—but if the weather stays calm there’s no reason he can’t remain in the hunt over the weekend.
Zach Johnson (5 Under Par)
Johnson carded a five-under 66 to shoot to the top of the leaderboard after taking advantage of the numerous early birdie opportunities he created. The 2007 Masters champion was six-under through 12 holes, but fell away slightly on the back nine.
Unsurprisingly the American was pleased with his first round’s showing, as reported by the BBC.
"I hit solid shots and putted really, really well."
"I appreciate what this tournament demands and it's probably my favourite tournament to play."
"You have to have every shot and it magnifies one's weaknesses."
Johnson heads a queue of players, including his namesake Dustin on three under, who took advantage of the favourable conditions rarely seen on links courses to post solid opening rounds.
Oliver Fisher (1 Under Par)
It was a tricky start for most of the English players who took to the course early on, but one man who stood out was 24-year-old Oliver Fisher.
In just his second Open Championship, Fisher carded a one-under 70 to return to the clubhouse nicely in the mix ahead of the second day.
Speaking to BBC Radio Essex (h/t BBC) he said: “It's great to be part of the experience but I was very pleased with the way I played. I played some beautiful shots and hit 16 greens in regulation.”
Fisher was not fancied at all by the bookies ahead of the Open, with prices as high as 300-1 for him to lift the claret jug, but if he produces another composed round, he’ll sail safely under the cut.