British Open 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 2
The excitement of the opening round of the British Open has passed.
Good scores have been shot in perfect conditions in the first round. Not-so-good scores have also been recorded, putting at risk the dreams of those who who hoped to be playing this weekend at Royal Liverpool.
And both of those groups make for an interesting list of players to watch on Day 2.
Can Tiger Woods repeat Thursday's performance? Can Rory McIlroy avoid another bad Friday on the golf course?
Is Adam Scott setting himself up for a run at the title he gave away in 2012?
Here's a list of seven players to watch in the second round.
The golf world eagerly anticipated the return of Tiger Woods to major championship competition, and he rewarded that anticipation by posting a three-under-par round of 69.
That was a very nice comeback for Woods, who had played just two competitive rounds in the last four months as a result of back surgery in March.
He started the round with back-to-back bogeys but put up five birdies in six holes on the back nine.
"I felt good about a lot of things I did out there today," Woods said via the Golf Channel. "Especially coming back after that start I had today, to fight myself back into the championship. I feel pretty good about it."
It's hard to make serious predictions for the rest of the week for Woods based on one round, but if he comes close to duplicating his play Thursday, he could once again prove the experts wrong and be a serious contender during the weekend.
For Rory McIlroy, the easy part is over.
Now comes the hard part.
The two-time major champion from Northern Ireland had a lovely stroll around Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Thursday morning, making six birdies and no bogeys for a 66 that made him the first-round leader in the Open Championship.
And that's really not shocking news, since McIlroy leads the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average at 68.0. The problem this year for McIlroy has been his second round when that average jumps to 72.9, putting him 181st among tour players.
At the Memorial Tournament in June, he opened with a 63 and followed that with a 78. Only once in 10 events on tour this year has he posted a lower score in his second round than his first.
At the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews, McIlroy opened with a 63 and backed that up with an 80, giving him the distinction of being the only player to shoot a round that low followed by one so high in consecutive days of a major.
"I've got to go out and pretend it's a Thursday again," he said via Daily Mail earlier this week. "I don't know. I've got to go out and play, play a few solid holes and get the round underway. Hopefully this week I can turn around that second round thing.
Things looked awfully easy for McIlroy in the first round Thursday. Rarely are they that easy in back-to-back rounds, and McIlroy figures to have a full day's work ahead of him on Friday.
The beat goes on for Bubba Watson and it keeps getting more and more off-key.
After getting around the front nine in one-under par, Watson failed to birdie the par-five 10th and then the wheels came off.
From the middle of the fairway on the 11th hole, he badly mishit his wedge approach shot and lost it. It was hard to tell whether he was ranting at himself, his caddy or just anybody within earshot.
Watson triple-bogeyed that hole and bogeyed the next two and suddenly went from one under to four over in the span of three holes.
He's become a serial offender in being distracted by noises or losing focus in the middle of a round.
Remember when he missed the cut at Pinehurst in the U.S. Open? He said afterward he needed to be mentally tougher.
He led the Memorial Tournament last month heading into the back nine but imploded and finished third.
Who knows how Watson will be when he arrives at the course Friday morning for the second round? He bogeyed the 18th hole, putting him at four-over par.
I'm predicting he'll go even higher Friday and miss the cut.
Some might be shocked to see that 64-year-old Tom Watson finished his first round with a score of 73, one-over par.
It really isn't all that much of a surprise because no American player has won more Open Championships (five) or knows how to play links golf better than Watson.
Yes, he's 64, but just five years ago, he nearly won this tournament at Turnberry.
Thursday, he made 10 pars, four birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey under perfect conditions.
Watson is aided this week by playing a firm, bouncy golf course that helps him make up for driving the ball a much shorter distance than the younger stars of the game today.
"I hit some decent iron shots, but with the driver, just getting the ball in the fairway was not very good. I am going directly to the practice range so I can work on something I thought about on the 18th tee," Watson said after his round was complete, via PGA.com.
Don't expect to see much different from Watson on Friday. If he continues to keep his tee shots in play, there's no reason to believe he won't put together another round near par and make the cut.
Of course, getting to the weekend will serve another purpose for Watson. The 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain would get an extra two days of scouting players for the September event.
Adam Scott played like the No. 1 player in the world Thursday morning.
He's not leading the Open Championship, but his round of four-under 68 puts him in great position going into Friday's second round.
Scott made 11 pars, four birdies, an eagle and just two bogeys.
He's just two shots behind the leader, Rory McIlroy, and had several good chances on the green he wasn't able to convert. The man with the most visually pleasing swing in golf is getting a reputation for being the best driver in the game as well, and he drove it very well Thursday. He hit nine of 14 fairways and averaged 323 yards per drive.
He did miss the 18th fairway, and the miss kept him from making a birdie on one of Royal Liverpool's four par fives.
The course he played in the afternoon was a bit more tricky than the tranquil conditions McIlroy enjoyed in the morning. Scott gets the morning tee time Friday when some inclement weather could be a factor.
If that doesn't happen, the Australian could put himself in a great position for the weekend.
Ron Green Jr. of Global Golf Post had similar thoughts:
Like Tom Watson, Jim Furyk doesn't have the length of the younger PGA Tour players.
But he still knows how to get the ball around a golf course, and that's what he did Thursday. Nothing spectacular, nothing flashy, but at the end of the day it was 12 pars, five birdies and one bogey for a 68 that has him tied for third.
He's a long shot to win this weekend, but if he continues to play well, that would help in an another goal: making the Ryder Cup. Furyk is playing with U.S. team captain Tom Watson the first two days, and while he says he's not necessarily auditioning, it doesn't hurt him at all to play well.
"I think it was a goal of mine not to try to put extra pressure on myself to play well," Furyk said, per the Golf Channel.
"How I play this week really has no effect on how I may play later on in the year if I was to make the team. It is a little odd in one respect (playing with the captain), but I've kind of chosen to look at it as a pretty cool opportunity to play with Tom Watson at the Open Championship."
Fairways and greens, a big part of Furyk's game, will get him to the weekend.
Martin Kaymer went wire-to-wire to win The Players Championship in May and the U.S. Open in June.
That won't happen if he ends up winning the Open Championship this week.
Kaymer managed to make a 73 out of a round that wasn't nearly that good. He made three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. A most un-Kaymer-like round, to be sure.
As he proved at Pinehurst, he's capable of going low. Thursday was a great scoring day at Royal Liverpool, so Kaymer is no doubt disappointed with his round. But a guy who can put back-to-back 65s at Pinehurst No. 2 is capable of doing the same thing here.
He's worth watching in Friday's second round because of those capabilities. If he gets it going early, he could cause upheaval on the leaderboard.