British Open 2014 Results: Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 1

Joe Menzer@@OneMenzFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

British Open 2014 Results: Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 1

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    Rory McIlroy, one of the most popular pre-tournament favorites, is atop the leaderboard after the first day of the 2014 British Open. McIlroy shot an impressive opening round of 66, but several other great golfers are still in hot pursuit.

    McIlroy must now battle not only them, but also his own demons that in too many recent tournaments have risen up to bite him in the second round or later.

    Among those still in the hunt after Day 1: Tiger Woods, who shot a three-under par 69 for by far his best round since returning after a three-month layoff brought on by back surgery. Other notables include Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka, all of whom are tied for third just two shots behind McIlroy. There's also some lesser-known players vying for the top spot, such as Matteo Manassero of Italy who is alone in second place after firing an impressive opening round of 67.

    On a day when the course at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club was conducive to low scores—with the sun shining and very little wind blowing in off the Irish Sea—lots of golfers took advantage. But not all of them.

    Read on to see who were the biggest winners and losers from Day 1.

Winner: Tiger Woods

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    Tiger's day started slowly at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, better known simply as Hoylake.

    But he finished strong, playing his last eight holes in five-under par to finish with a three-under total of 69 for the day. On his back nine, he registered birdies on holes No. 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16.

    And when he did make a bogey on No. 14 after a poor tee shot, he looked like the old Tiger Woods when he followed that with a spectacular tee shot on the par-3 15th, after which he confidently knocked in an eight-foot putt for birdie. He also nearly chipped in for eagle on No. 16 before tapping in for birdie.

    All in all, it was a very encouraging day for Woods after missing the cut at Congressional in his last—and only—tournament before this one following the three-month layoff. Afterward he told USA Today that his back is fine, saying "I'm only going to get stronger and faster."

Loser: Ernie Els

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    It's never good when your first tee shot of the day strikes an innocent bystander, drawing blood.

    But as bad as that might be on your local public links golf course, imagine how awful it must feel for a professional golfer to start out his British Open that way.

    It's exactly how two-time Open champion Ernie Els' Thursday began, and the clearly shaken Els had a difficult time dealing with it. In fact, after striking the spectator, Els went on to three-putt the first hole for a triple-bogey—from one foot.

    Els never did recover, really, and ended up shooting a seven-over 79.

Winners: The Molinari Brothers

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    Brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari are close off the course and Thursday they were virtually inseparable on it, too.

    About 30 minutes after Edoardo signed his scorecard for a four-under 68 in the opening round, younger brother Francesco rolled in a 15-foot eagle putt at No. 18 to shoot the same score.

    They'll head into Day 2 tied with three others for third in the Open Championship.

    "We were here on Sunday practicing together," Francesco, who is nearly two years younger than the 33-year-old Edoardo, told the Associated Press. "Probably we did a good job."

    Probably so.

Loser: Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson didn't look good playing on British soil Thursday. Whatever the reason, the two-time Masters champion got off to a rough start and then seemed to...what? Give in? Give up?

    It appeared Watson got so frustrated after a triple-bogey seven on the par-4 11th hole that he followed with a slew of rushed, indifferent swings that led to far more trouble. When the carnage that was his round had ended, he was left to sign for a four-over 76 that left him tied for 127th heading into Day 2.

Winner: Matteo Manassero

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    Who is Matteo Manassero, and how in the heck is he only one stroke off the lead after Round 1 at the 2014 British Open?

    Well, according to his own website, none other than Tom Watson once described him as "a really good player." Hey, that's good enough for us.

    That and the fact that he played brilliantly in the opening round on Thursday. The young Italian, who is only 21 years old, registered seven birdies and could have gone even lower than the five-under score of 67 he posted had he not stumbled with a pair of avoidable bogeys.

    It will be interesting to see how he stands up to the pressure of the next three days.

Loser: Angel Cabrera

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    Always considered one of the possibilities to be in the mix at the end of a major tournament, Cabrera stumbled badly right out of the gate on Thursday and never recovered.

    He ended up with a four-over score of 76 that left him tied for 127th with the equally miserable Bubba Watson and several others who will have to rally to continue playing into the weekend.

    The odd thing is that Cabrera looked great while winning his last tune-up tournament before teeing it up at Hoylake.

    He shot consecutive rounds of 64 on the final two days to capture the Greenbrier Classic, giving him hope that he might contend for another major to go along with the two he already has (he won the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters).

Winner: Sergio Garcia

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    Anytime Sergio Garcia lurks near the top of the leaderboard in a major, danger—and imminent collapse—seem to lurk around his every next swing of the club.

    So when he bogeyed his 10th hole on Thursday after making the turn at three-under, right with the leaders at the time, there was cause for concern. Was this the beginning of the end of his latest failure in a major, and in the British Open in particular?

    Well, Garcia answered that, at least for the time being, on the very next hole when he chipped in for birdie. It arguably saved his day, his round...and who knows, perhaps even his tournament.

    Garcia went on to finish the first day with a 4-under 68 that left him tied for third.

Loser: Bryden Macpherson

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    Who shoots a 90 in a professional golf tournament?

    Well, before you think we're about to go picking on some amateur who was playing in the glaring spotlight for the first time, Bryden Macpherson is a pro out of Australia who, though only 23, should have been able to get around Royal Liverpool Golf Club at least a little better than your average weekend amateur hacker.

    Macpherson's card read like yours or mine, for goodness sakes. He had a quadruple-bogey eight on the par-4 8th hole, a triple-bogey seven on the par-4 fourth, three double-bogeys and five bogeys. That left him in last place for the tournament, eight shots out of 155th with his round of 18-over. 

Winners: Steve Williams and Adam Scott

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    There seems to be some magical chemistry in the Hoylake wind this week between caddie Steve Williams and Adam Scott.

    Scott shot a four-under 68 that left him tied for third, and he looked perfectly calm in doing it.

    That bodes well for this pair for the rest of the weekend. Part of the backstory is that Williams, who used to caddy for Tiger Woods, told Scott prior to this season, according to the Associated Press, that he plans to cut back on his schedule beginning next year.

    These two no doubt want to make what likely will be their final full season together as memorable as possible and they moved one round closer to possibly doing that on Thursday.

Winner: Rory McIlroy

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    Well, that was easy.

    Then again, the first round of tournaments, majors or otherwise, often seems easy for Rory McIlroy. The trick for him is to avoid a meltdown from the second round on.

    But that is tomorrow's challenge.

    In Day 1 at the 2014 British Open, McIlroy was nothing short of brilliant while making his way around the Hoylake course at six-under with a score of 66. He did not have a single bogey. That left McIlroy alone atop the leaderboard—at least for the time being.

    "I couldn't have asked for anymore, stuck to my game plan and tried to take advantage of the par fives," McIlroy told the BBC afterward (per the Irish Times). "I hit a couple of poor shots out there but for the most part I had the golf ball under control."