The first round of the 2014 British Open was truly a tale of two halves, with morning tee times posting low scores in benign conditions and afternoon golfers struggling as winds stiffened and changed direction.
Though the top of the leaderboard shot quite well, links golf often has a habit of exacting its revenge later in the tournament.
For now, plenty of favorites exploited the morning weather to surge to the top of the leaderboard. While they may fall back to the pack with later tee times on Friday, the updated odds from OddsChecker.com reflect how many of the biggest names were able to work themselves into a favorable position:
via OddsChecker.com as of 7/17, 3:45 PM ET
So which of the new favorites is most likely to represent a sustainable option heading into the weekend? Here are some of the best values for who will eventually hoist the Claret Jug.
Adam Scott (5-1)
The world's top-ranked golfer posted the lowest score of the late tee times, shooting a four-under 68 to work his way into a tie for third place. Considering the conditions, Scott's round may have been the most impressive of the day.
After an up-and-down start to the season, Scott has rebounded with three consecutive top-10 finishes on tour, including a win at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and a ninth-place showing at the Masters. But for Scott, starting strong at the Open Championship has never been an issue. Rather, finishing the back nine on Sunday has presented problems:
Adam Scott -4 today; at @The_Open since 2012, he's -15 over the first 66 holes of the tournament. +6 on final 6 holes Sunday.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 17, 2014
Everyone remembers his collapse in 2012, when he blew a four-stroke lead with four holes to go. However, Scott blew an opportunity to redeem himself last year when, in the final round, he fell from two-under par on the 12th hole to two-over par on the 17th.
A notoriously streaky putter, Scott was solid on Thursday apart from bogey blips on Nos. 12 and 14. The Aussie figures to remain in contention throughout, but even with a major championship under his belt since his collapse two years ago, questions will dog him in this particular event until he proves he can finish strong.
Tiger Woods (12-1)
Not many expected Tiger Woods to seriously contend this week, despite his impeccable track record and a British Open victory at Royal Liverpool back in 2006. Though consecutive bogeys to start the round left Woods teetering, he ripped off five birdies in six holes on the back nine to finish at three-under par.
Indeed, his first round this year bore an eerie resemblance to his opening round of 2006:
For someone playing just his second event since returning from back surgery, Woods' ball-striking was remarkably precise. Tiger hit 13 fairways on the day, allowing him to avoid bogeys by placing himself in favorable positions away from the thick Hoylake rough.
Since winning his last major in 2008, Tiger has had difficulty stringing together 72 holes at major championships. He has a long way to go before capturing his fourth Claret Jug, but at least for a day, vintage Tiger made an appearance.
Jim Furyk (22-1)
The perennially unheralded Furyk took advantage of the early conditions to shoot four-under par. Though Furyk has gained a reputation as one of the steadiest golfers on tour, the British Open has traditionally been his worst major. In his past 14 starts at the event, Furyk has accrued just two top-10 finishes and seven missed cuts.
Nevertheless, he did finish in fourth the last time the Open was held at Hoylake, a positive harbinger for 2014. Moreover, Furyk fits the prototype of recent British Open winners:
Furyk at 44 fits the recent Open champion profile as the last 3 winners---Phil, Ernie and Daren---were in their 40s. Hall's a lock with win.— Rich Lerner (@RichLernerGC) July 17, 2014
Which of these players is likeliest to win the British Open?
It's hard to believe that the 44-year-old has won just a single major, back at the 2003 U.S. Open. With a series of recent misses, including a runner-up at last year's PGA Championship, it's clear the veteran is still a serious threat on tour.
Few expected that breakthrough to come at the British, where his tendency to hit some of the highest shots on tour is an incongruent fit in the windy weather. Nonetheless, given his past success at Royal Liverpool and his precision on Thursday, Furyk is an interesting dark horse to win the event.