The Open Championship 2013: Biggest Questions Entering Moving Day at Muirfield
As the scores rose on the tail of a steady wind, the coolest and calmest collected the best rounds of the day in the 2013 British Open.
The first-round leader somehow held on to the top spot, followed closely by a group of the world’s best players.
Who will be able to tame this fast-paced course and its steady North Atlantic winds? Will players gamble or grind in order to position themselves for Sunday? How will players handle their nerves?
These and other questions arise as the Open Championship at Muirfield heads into moving day.
Will Phil Mickelson Move Up or Down?
This is always the case with Phil. He can be as brilliant as any golfer on the course or as frustrating as he was on Day 2.
After doubling No. 2, Phil made a resilient comeback and then succumbed to his own misplays and carded a three-over 74.
He will look back on his double bogey at No. 15, which included a three-putt, as the most disappointing part of his day. He began the day at two under with a great chance to take the lead and now sits at one over.
The question remains, which Phil will show up on Saturday?
Who’s Lurking in the Crowd?
Six of the nine players who are one-over par have won majors.
Jason Day and Hunter Mahan have finished in the top five of recent majors. Ian Poulter desperately wants to win one. The hot young Justin Spieth, also at plus one, is playing as if he deserves one.
As predicted, the field at Muirfield is wide open and any one of these players has a chance to make a run at the title.
Don’t be surprised if you see their names at the top by the end of Saturday.
Who Will Be the Toughest Player?
Muirfield, with its browned out fairways, swirling wind and glassy greens, has become a test of toughness.
The one who wins here will be able to shrug off double bogeys and not get ahead of himself if he is fortunate to make a birdie or even an eagle.
Scorecards here have more ups and downs than ski moguls. Zach Johnson’s round included four birdies and five bogeys, and that was fairly typical among the leaders. There have been no miracle shots, unless you call a two-putt a miracle.
If you have watched any of the Open, you have seen wonderful chip shots from just off the green run by the hole for single and double bogeys.
You’ve watched as players scratch their heads over approach shots that hit a sidelong bump near a bunker and bounce into the rough.
The greens have become so fast that it is virtually impossible to judge their speed. Bogeys are now considered saves.
The winner will be someone with the roundest shoulders who can overcome a course that tests his mental toughness as much as his physical game.
Can Brandt Snedeker Regroup?
Perhaps no one had a tougher round than Brandt Snedeker. He came into the second round just two strokes behind the leader and ended in a tie for 39 at five over.
His downfall began with a short chip up a hill that rolled back to the same spot. Snedeker then putted onto the green and doubled the hole.
From there it was all downhill with a back nine that included two bogeys, two doubles and a triple. Compare that to his first day when he had one double and one bogey.
Still, as one of the game's best putters, the 32-year-old American should not be counted out of this just yet. Should Snedeker get his flat stick going again in the third round, he will assuredly move up the board.
Can a Big Hitter Win It All?
Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson can really pound the ball and all are within shouting distance of the lead.
Johnson kept rebounding throughout the day; he follwed one bogey with an eagle and another with a birdie. Bubba shot a bumpy 73, but he also was able to birdie four holes. Stenson had the best round of the three with his second 70 in two days, placing him in a tie for first.
Of the three, Bubba is the only one with a major title, but both Stenson and Johnson have been close before.
Expect them to continue utilizing their driving power to the fullest in an effort to gain an edge on moving day.
Can Angel Cabrera Continue His Mastery of Muirfield?
Angel Cabrera took his aggressive style to Muirfield and for most of the day bested the hard-edged course.
After a 69 in Round 1, Cabrera shot two under on the front nine Friday and took control of the tournament. He ended the round poorly with three bogeys, but is still at one under.
Even though he is only ranked No. 53 in the world, Cabrera has two majors under his belt, having won the U.S. Open in 2007 and Masters in 2009. He was in the final pairing at this year’s Masters as well.
Known as a fearless player who is unafraid to gamble with the game on the line, "El Pato" may possess the perfect mentality to tackle the Muirfield weekend.