British Open 2013 Leaderboard: Expert Reaction to Day 1 Results
Another first round at the Open Championship has come and gone.
Zach Johnson is the opening-round leader at the 2013 British Open, posting an impressive five-under 66 to lead Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Mark O'Meara by one stroke heading into Friday's Round 2.
The PGA Tour had this tweet as Thursday's golfers exited Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland:
Johnson was the class of the field on Thursday, but a number of surprise names are at the top of the leaderboard. Among them are 1998 British Open champion O'Meara, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Shiv Kapur, who got off to one of the best starts we've ever seen at the Open.
As you can see from this ESPN's Stats & Info tweet, Kapur was the first player in the last 13 years to gain a stroke at six of his first seven holes in any British Open round:
Jimenez, Kapur, Dustin Johnson, Tom Lehman and Brandt Snedeker all finished with a three-under 68, while Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson headlined a group of six golfers who will begin Friday just three strokes off Johnson's pace.
*To see the entire 2013 British Open leaderboard, visit TheOpen.com.
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde might have said it best: Day 1 belonged to the old guys.
Starting with O'Meara, it was a renaissance fair during the first round of action. O'Meara hasn't finished in the top 10 of a major since 2003 and is a member of the Champions Tour, but he clearly had a flashback to his glory days, highlighted by an eagle on No. 17.
As PGA Tour Media reported on Twitter, his four-under 67 at age 56 tied three previous scores for the best round of his career at the Open:
Elsewhere, 43-year-old Angel Cabrera continues to stay in contention at the majors. Like clockwork, the runner-up from The Masters earlier this year fired off a two-under 69 and is only three strokes off pace as we shift our gaze to Friday.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel knew it was coming:
It's a major week, so expect to see... oh, wait. There it is. Angel Cabrera's name is on the leaderboard.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 18, 2013
Mickelson is also technically considered an old guy, but age continues to be a non-factor for the lefty in his pursuit of another major championship. Fresh off his win at the Scottish Open, Phil fired a two-under 69 and is tied for ninth heading into Friday.
Lehman, Jimenez and Todd Hamilton are also all over the age of 45, but all three finished inside the top 10 on Thursday.
Hamilton, who won the 2004 Open at Royal Troon, has faded into obscurity since winning his Claret Jug. He hasn't finished higher than 60th at a major since 2010, but you couldn't tell that from his Thursday performance.
Forget majors, Hamilton has struggled in general over the past few years. PGA Tour had this tweet to confirm:
Todd Hamilton is T9 at Muirfield. His last top 10 on TOUR in a stroke-play event? '09 at Harbour Town. T8 at Reno last year (Stableford)— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2013
Encouraging starts for Dustin Johnson and Snedeker are a good sign. Snedeker continues to make the short list of golfers on the fringe of winning their first major, and Johnson is trying to prove his maturity can catch up to his talent every week.
A bright spot on the day was Kapur. The fourth-ranked player in India, he birdied six of his first seven holes to take an outright lead heading into No. 8.
He would finish at three-under, but as Chris Chase of USA Today reported in his expose of the surprise contender, that finish is quite impressive considering he's the 210th best player in the world.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the No. 1 player in the world showed flashes of why he continues to take home the top spot each week.
A day after signing a new endorsement contract with Nike, Tiger went out there and just did it.
Poor slogan jokes aside, Woods is in contention again at the British Open after his two-under 69 during the first round of action on Thursday. Woods finished strong with a birdie on No. 17 and managed to break par for the fifth time in his last six first rounds at a major.
ESPN's Stats & Information had the tweet:
Tiger Woods has broken par in 1st round of 5 of last 6 majors; in the previous 5 events, he only had 4 sup-par rounds after the 1st— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2013
Woods is in pursuit of his 15th career major championship victory. Although he didn't play perfect golf in either the fairways or on the approach, he did manage to flash some of the immense talent he possesses both in the sand and in the rough.
And unlike his last two rounds at the U.S. Open, his putter didn't desert him through the course of the afternoon. Barring a collapse, it would be a good bet to include Tiger in any listing of contenders over the next few days.
Woods is a three-time British Open champion, but other past champions (and major champions in general) did not fair as well as the No. 1 player in the world.
Starting with Ernie Els, some of the players we expected to contend early were not in the mix on Thursday. Els, who is both the reigning champion and last man to win at Muirfield in 2002, played even golf through 15 holes.
A disastrous triple bogey on No. 16 and another bogey on No. 18 resigned him to a three-over 74. Forde struggled to even comprehend Els' struggles on No. 16:
I've seen beach lifeguards spend less time in the sand than Ernie Els did on 16. Triple bogey, not sure how many shots out of same bunker.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) July 18, 2013
This year's major championship winners didn't have a standout day, either. Adam Scott was inconsistent but managed to finish at even par. Justin Rose limped to a four-over 75.
The Englishman didn't do anything to prove he was ready to become the first man to sweep the U.S Open and British Open since 2000, much less the first Englishman to win since Nick Faldo in 1992.
That being said, no one had a worse day than Rory McIlroy.
The No. 2 player in the world finished at eight-over on Thursday. Only 11 players had a worse scorecard to turn in than the Northern Irishman, but I don't think anyone will argue with the notion that the biggest loser from Thursday's action was McIlroy.
ESPN's John Buccigross isn't arguing:
Rory McIlroy: 8-over 79 today worst-ever opening round at a major. McIlroy is now a combined 24-over par in majors this year #chopchop— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) July 18, 2013
Overall, we saw sand, saves and surprises during the first day of action at Muirfield. The course played fast and tested the field's ability to adapt on the fly, and the leaders are the ones who weather the storm well in Round 1.
Friday will provide another chance for the leaders to distance themselves and those who struggled to return to form. It's too early to crown a favorite after just one day of action at the 142 British Open, and the final three days at Muirfield should serve as a reminder that anything can happen at a major.
Tune in the rest of the way to see just what that anything might be.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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