The first round of the 2013 British Open featured plenty of surprises.
As usual, there are a few names on the leaderboard most casual fans won't recognize. And as usual, a few players you'd expect to be in contention are perilously close to missing the cut after a horrible showing.
2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson sits atop the leaderboard by himself after shooting a five-under 66 in the early goings at Muirfield.
Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler all suffered through miserable rounds and are in danger of missing the cut.
Here are some predictions for the rest of the way now that Round 1 from Muirfield is in the books.
Tiger and Phil Will Be in Contention on Sunday
This weekend will be awesome for fans who love watching legends at the top of their game.
Who has the better chance to win?
Mickelson entered the British Open after having won his first event on U.K. soil on Sunday at the Scottish Open, and he kept his hot play going with a nice round on Thursday.
He was accurate off the tee (71.4 percent of FIR) and into the greens (72.2 percent of GIR). Mickelson's tee-shot accuracy is especially important to his chances this weekend, and if he can get hot with his putter, he's going to be difficult to beat.
Woods looked good on Thursday, too. Playing late in the afternoon, when scoring was more difficult for the field, he put together a nice round. And most importantly, his elbow looked just fine.
Before injuring his elbow "in one of the rounds" at The Players Championship, as noted by Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel, Woods was the hottest golfer in the world. Now that he's had a month to rest, Tiger appears to be right where he wants to be heading into the weekend at Muirfield.
Rory McIlroy Will Miss the Cut
After winning two major championships, expectations were sky high for McIlroy.
But after a 2013 campaign that has featured more disappointment than joy, the young Northern Irishman's game continued to spiral down in Round 1 of the British Open.
He managed to hit only five fairways on Thursday, and his round of eight-over 79 was one of the worst scores in the field.
After his round, McIlroy spoke to the press about his game, as noted by Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post:
Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there, and I’m unconscious. I just need to try to think more. I’m trying to focus and trying to concentrate. It’s nothing to do with technique. It’s all mental out there...It’s just so brain-dead.
With comments like this, it seems safe to say McIlroy isn't in the right mindset to bounce back from his frustrating opening round.
Don't be surprised if McIlroy puts together another disastrous round on Friday to miss the cut by a wide margin.
Zach Johnson Won't Fall Off the Map
Muirfield is playing to Johnson's strengths right now, which is why he leads the field at five-under par after Round 1.
Though Muirfield is not a particularly short course, its fairways are running fast, which means a shorter, more accurate hitter like Johnson can get the most out of his tee shots. As noted by the PGA Tour, Johnson says the fairways are running just as fast as the greens:
Zach Johnson: "It's just so dry out there right now. The fairways are running as fast as the greens." #TheOpen— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2013
Featuring tiny landing spots and difficult pin locations, this course is playing a bit like Augusta National—the course Johnson mastered in 2007 to claim his only major championship title.
Johnson may not win the 2013 British Open, but he's not going to disappear from the leaderboard like so many first-round leaders in past tournaments. He'll be a force to be reckoned with for the next few days.
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