The second round of the 2013 Open Championship has been underway for hours at Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland, with Thursday's leaders trying to keep the ship afloat going into the weekend.
Day 1 at the Scottish course was surprisingly demure. The Open Championship has a history of making the world's best players succumb to its will, with insane shifts in weather patterns making luck one of the biggest factors in contention. Couple that with the unpredictable peaks and valleys in the fairways and deep bunkers, and it's no wonder those across the pond scoff at the U.S. Open's claim as the greatest test in the world.
That said, the weather was calm and quiet Thursday. Winds stayed surprisingly consistent, and a beautiful sun came beaming off the sea and made for a picturesque atmosphere.
Well, at least until the afternoon. Course conditions played a major factor as the day went on, as the heat and dry air made the course take on an asphalt-like speed by day's end. Pin placement was also an issue for many golfers, with Ian Poulter having the most pointed criticism on Twitter:
Things are unlikely to change in Round 2. The sunshine is expected to continue throughout the day, which will again leave players frustrated with judging green speeds. It will be interesting to see how many strong morning players from Thursday see their Open Championship dreams go by the wayside simply due to the shift of their tee times.
With afternoon action about to get underway, let's check out a couple of the most intriguing groups and check in on when each player will step to the first tee.
2013 British Open Live Leaderboard
Pairings of Note
Bubba Watson, Nicolas Colsaerts and Dustin Johnson (8:45 a.m. ET, 1:45 p.m. BST)
This threesome has arguably the best success rate of any thus far at Muirfield. Dustin Johnson (-3) and Bubba Watson (-1) represented one-tenth of the players who carded under-par scores in Thursday's first round, while Colesaerts (+4) found himself struggling to find a rhythm.
Playing in the afternoon, when fairways and greens got progressively faster yesterday, should present an interesting challenge for the two golfers in contention. Johnson and Watson are both boomers off the tee, consistently ranking among the PGA's lengthiest drivers.
The former had a particularly strong Thursday morning with his driver. Johnson was one of a handful of guys to break the 300-yard-average barrier, finishing the day with a robust 304.5 yards per drive. That helped the 29-year-old American breeze to greens he wouldn't normally hit in the allotted strokes, as exemplified by his thrilling eagle at the par-five 17th.
That three kept Johnson from falling victim to his own inconsistencies. Starting out his day hot, Johnson carded four birdies on the front nine and looked to be headed for the top of the leaderboard. But Z. Johnson is up there instead of D. Johnson because the latter began spraying errant shots all over the course and cost himself three strokes before rebounding with that clutch eagle.
Johnson has an exemplary history at Open Championships. He's finished no worse than a tie for 14th over the past three events and finished tied for second in 2011. Dustin Johnson is many things. A pretender at the Open Championship he is not.
Watson, meanwhile, went for a more subdued approach in Round 1. He stuck right in the 280 range off the tee, choosing accuracy over tearing his shoulder out of its socket with a ferocious swing.
The result was mostly muddled by Watson's mediocrity on approaches and on the greens. He bogeyed four holes as a result of poor putting and errant second shots and, like his playing partner, had his day saved by an eagle at the 17th hole. Watson has never been much of a links-course golfer—guys with his aggressive disposition rarely are—but last year's tie for 23rd is at least a promising sign he could hang around the fringes of contention.
Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama (9:45 a.m. ET, 2:45 p.m. BST)
McIlroy's first 18 holes were like a car crash. The world's second-ranked golfer looked like a man who let his pre-tournament criticism go right to the head, finishing with an eight-over 79. From the short stick to the long, nothing about McIlroy's game was in proper working condition Thursday.
While he somehow managed to save himself a few times on the front nine and hit the turn at one over, McIlroy completely fell apart from the moment he set foot at the 10th tee box. His back nine started bogey-bogey-double, and while he added in a nice birdie for flair at 13, the carnage was only beginning. Another double at the 15th and two close-out over-par numbers finished his day, a 42 on the back nine staring him in the face.
No stranger to high scores on links courses, Phil Mickelson continued his surprising run of European excellence. A few days after getting his first overseas triumph in two decades at the Scottish Open, Lefty opened with a two-under 69 and is in the assemblage of players tied for ninth place, three strokes behind Zach Johnson.
The 43-year-old Mickelson carded four birdies against just two bogeys, playing the same solid and composed style he rode to the Scottish Open crown. There were no sweeping, overzealous shots that ended up 20 yards from their expected destinations. He hit 71.4 percent of his fairways and 72.2 percent of his greens, a fair representation of a solid all-around effort.
No one seemed all that pleased with the pin placement considering the fast conditions, but Lefty did an excellent job of keeping the lengthy bends to a minimum with eight one-putts. While there remains the very real possibility the Mickelson of yesteryear will come out—the one who has exactly two top-10 Open Championship finishes—this guy will have a shot if he can keep composed.
The forgotten man of this pairing, Matsuyama, had a surprisingly stellar opening round with an even-par 71. As one of the youngest players in this field, no one is expecting much out of the 21-year-old. But every time he seemed to be on the precipice of playing himself out of the tournament—five bogeys will do that for a kid—he played himself right back in with an under-par number.
It will be a little much to expect Matsuyama to stick on the fringes of contention, as he is playing in his first Open Championship. That said, he might just beat out the second-ranked golfer in the world. It's hard to have many better first tries at the Open than that.
Full Afternoon Pairings for Round 2
7:06 a.m. ET, 12:06 p.m BST
7:17 a.m. ET, 12:17 p.m BST
7:28 a.m. ET, 12:28 p.m BST
7:39 a.m. ET, 12:39 p.m BST
Miguel Angel Jimenez
7:50 a.m. ET, 12:50 p.m BST
8:01 a.m. ET, 1:01 p.m BST
8:12 a.m. ET, 1:12 p.m BST
8:23 a.m. ET, 1:23 p.m BST
Garrick Porteous (A)
8:34 a.m. ET, 1:34 p.m BST
8:45 a.m. ET, 1:45 p.m BST
9:01 a.m. ET, 2:01 p.m BST
9:12 a.m. ET, 2:12 p.m BST
9:23 a.m. ET, 2:23 p.m BST
9:34 a.m. ET, 2:34 p.m BST
9:45 a.m. ET, 2:45 p.m BST
9:56 a.m. ET, 2:56 p.m BST
10:07 a.m. ET, 3:07 p.m BST
10:18 a.m. ET, 3:18 p.m BST
10:29 a.m. ET, 3:29 p.m BST
10:40 a.m. ET, 3:40 p.m BST
10:51 a.m. ET, 3:51 p.m BST
Jimmy Mullen (A)
11:02 a.m. ET, 4:02 p.m BST
11:13 a.m. ET, 4:13 p.m BST
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