The Open Championship 2013: Biggest Questions Entering Day 2 at Muirfield

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2013

The Open Championship 2013: Biggest Questions Entering Day 2 at Muirfield

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    A major championship is a lot like a horse race.

    The best jockeys and horses don't win a race in the first quarter mile. They are merely trying to position themselves for a great run down the stretch. Zach Johnson has positioned himself at the front of the pack after one round of The Open Championship, and he's hoping he has plenty of gas in the tank.

    Muirfield proved to be quite challenging in the opening round. It's likely to become even more of a test if the winds pick up in the second round.

    Here's a look at the biggest questions entering Day 2.

Will the Course Remain as Hard and Unforgiving as It Was on Thursday?

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    There was nothing but bright sun and blue skies on the opening day of the British Open. That's quite newsworthy for this classic tournament.

    However, that wasn't necessarily wonderful news for the golfers, especially those who played in the afternoon. The normally damp British weather usually moistens the course, which gives the golfers a chance to put backspin on the ball and make it bite.

    That was basically impossible in the late going.

    If the weather stays the same for the second round—and it is expected to—those who play in the afternoon session Friday will have a well-worn, sun-baked course. That will make scoring much more difficult for those who play late in the day.

Is Zach Johnson a Legitimate Contender?

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    Zach Johnson got off to a brilliant start in the opening round and takes a one-stroke lead into the second round.

    Johnson was excellent on the front nine, as he shot a five-under-par 31 and an even-par 35 on the back nine. That's no surprise, as the course played much easier in the morning session

    Johnson has one major title to his credit. He won the 2007 Masters, so he knows what it takes to play consistently over four rounds at a major championship. If he can keep his mistakes to a minimum, he should be ready to play consistently in the second round. The afternoon will likely make it tougher, but he has the precise swing to make it work.

Can Young Jordan Spieth Remain in the Hunt?

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    Don't tell Jordan Spieth that his bubble is going to burst anytime soon.

    While 19-year-old golfers are not supposed to have a chance in a major championship, Spieth shot a two-under-par 69 in the opening round and he is just three strokes behind the leader.

    Spieth qualified for the British Open when he won the John Deere Classic last week by surviving a playoff. He flew to Scotland right after his victory, got his clothes laundered, played a couple of practice rounds and topped it off with an excellent first round.

    Spieth's mental approach and course management was helpful in his John Deere victory, and those factors should work in his favor at the British Open.

Can Rory McIlroy Make the Cut?

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    This disastrous 2013 season just continues to get worse for the former boy wonder of the golf tour.

    Rory McIlroy shot an opening round of 79 and he appears very unlikely to make the cut. McIlroy knows that the problem with his game is mental, but that knowledge is not doing much to bring his game together.

    McIlroy seemed to be in decent shape through nine holes because he was only one over par, but he started the back nine with a bogey, bogey and double bogey before adding another double two holes later.

    McIlroy is struggling in all aspects of his game, and his putting has been especially undependable.

Will Tiger Woods Take Charge?

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    Tiger Woods wants to end his five-year dry spell and find his way to the winner's circle in a major again.

    Woods had a solid first round, shooting a two-under-par 69. The world's No.1 golfer did not use his driver at all in the round, and that suits his game right now. He has not been hitting his driver consistently, but the rest of his game—including his long irons and putting—has been excellent. That bodes well for the rest of the tournament.

    His ball-striking was solid in Round 1, but the best part of his game may have been his mental outlook. He played with a notable confidence that he has not displayed in his most recent majors. If Woods can grab a share of the lead or take sole possession after two rounds, he will be in an ideal position.

Can Dustin Johnson Continue to Play Consistently?

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    Dustin Johnson doesn't seem like he would have the kind of game that suits Muirfield in particular, or the British Open in general.

    He's a big hitter and his distance usually pays off on larger American courses. On British courses that require accuracy, you'd assume that Johnson would be in trouble.

    However, logic goes out the window when it comes to Johnson at the British Open. Johnson tied for ninth in last year's British Open and he tied for second in 2011.

    Johnson shot a three-under-par 68, thanks in large part to his four-under-par front nine. He has an excellent chance to run down Zach Johnson.

Is Phil Mickelson Ready to Make a Run?

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    All of a sudden, Phil Mickelson has learned how to play links golf.

    Prior to winning last week's Scottish Open, Mickelson had not won a golf tournament in Europe in 20 years. Mickelson picked up where he left off, shooting an opening round of 69.

    Mickelson was quite consistent in the round, making two birdies and one bogey on both nines. Mickelson and Tiger Woods are both three strokes behind leader Zach Johnson, as Lefty and his longtime rival are both in a good position to make it a memorable weekend.

Who Is Shiv Kapur and What Is He Doing Tied for 4th in the British Open?

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    Stand up if you had heard of Shiv Kapur before Thursday's opening round of the British Open.

    I thought so.

    Kapur is the only Indian player in the tournament. The New Delhi native is the 210th-ranked player in the world. Nevertheless, Kapur shot an opening round of 68 and is just two strokes out of the lead.

    Kapur got off to a red-hot start with six birdies in his first seven holes. While he was three-over par the rest of the way, Kapur was solid throughout and will have a chance to prove his consistency entering Friday's action.