British Open 2013: Complete Analysis of Day 1 Leaderboard

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2013

Aug. 4, 2012; Akron, OH, USA; Zach Johnson tees off the 14th hole during the third round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.  Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

For fans of golf, the 2013 British Open is shaping up to be must-see TV. 

2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson made an early statement, shooting an opening-round 66 to lead the field at five-under par. 

PGA Tour veteran and 1998 Open Championship winner Mark O'Meara joined relative unknown Rafael Cabrera-Bello in second place at four-under par while four golfers are tied for fourth place at three-under par. 

Rounding out the leaderboard, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, 19-year-old teenage sensation Jordan Spieth and three other golfers are just three shots off the lead at two-under par. 

Spieth is playing with skill and maturity beyond his years.

While the leaders wowed us with excellent shot-making and timely putts, there are many golfers who likely wish they could take a mulligan on the first round altogether and start over again.

Last year's winner and two-time British Open champion Ernie Els labored through his first round. He uncharacteristically had trouble off the tee, hitting just 42.9 percent of his fairways. At three-over par, Els is in danger of missing the cut with another poor effort on Friday.

Rory McIlroy (eight-over par) and Luke Donald (nine-over par) both likely shot themselves out of the tournament while this year's U.S. Open winner, Justin Rose, didn't fare much better at four-over par.

Muirfield was playing exceptionally fast from tee to green. After his impressive opening round to lead the tournament, Johnson told reporters, per PGA Tour's Twitter account, that the fairways were running just as fast as the greens:

Accuracy off the tee is imperative to shooting low at Muirfield. With waist-high rough just feet from the fairways, players who missed the mark off the tee suffered badly.

Additionally, the course's strategically placed pot bunkers claimed many a ball on Thursday.

Rest assured, the men who find themselves atop the leaderboard this weekend will be among the field's top performers in the fairways- and greens-in-regulation stats. 

It's for this reason that Johnson should continue to do well and retain a spot on the leaderboard heading into the weekend. He's an accurate driver of the ball, ranking No. 14 on the PGA Tour in the FIR category (68.01 percent), and a phenomenal wedge player. 

Woods and Mickelson will also be players to watch on Friday, as both are playing extremely well right now. Woods, in particular, put together a fine back nine—a three-under 32 that set him up well for Friday.

His birdie putt on No. 13 was particularly impressive, as shared by AJJAGSPORTS' Julian Garcia:

Muirfield rewards excellent shot-making and it's no surprise to see so many top golfers near the top of the leaderboard. With just 20 golfers under par after Round 1, it will be surprising if more than half of them are still under par at the end of the four rounds. 

As dry and hard as Muirfield is playing, it's only going to get tougher and pin positions will only get more challenging. 

It might be fun for fans to watch, but it's brutally tough for players to conquer. 


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