Day 1 of the 2014 British Open is officially in the books, and plenty of golf's biggest names are in contention at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Luckily for the field, Thursday featured some impeccable weather—especially for an Open Championship—with no rain and very little wind. Going low in these conditions was a must for any competitor due to inclement weather expected for the remainder of the tournament.
With the entire field through the first round of play, here's how the leaderboard shook out after 18 holes of one of golf's most prestigious championships:
Rory McIlroy set the pace early, firing a six-under 66 in what would be the low round of the day.
A blemish-free scorecard on Day 1 put McIlroy in a great position going forward, and his round got off to a hot start after this approach on the par-four second nearly found the hole and led to a birdie:
PGA Tour Media tweeted McIlroy's record after leading through 18 holes in a tour event:
Of nine 18-hole leads on the PGA TOUR before today, R. McIlroy has converted two into wins; 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 BMW Championship.— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) July 17, 2014
All eyes will be on the leader in Round 2, as he's looking to break a trend of poor Friday showings this year. The Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman tweeted her thoughts and McIlroy's stats for the season:
Rory McIlroy is now a combined -57 in his opening rounds of 2014. He's +9 in round 2. Solid day tomorrow would open a huge door.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 17, 2014
McIlroy certainly has some work to do heading into Day 2, as plenty of the world's best are nipping at his heels.
One such player is No. 1-ranked Adam Scott, who fired an opening round of four-under 68 on Thursday to finish in a tie for third position.
Scott started off incredibly strong with a birdie on hole No. 4 followed by an eagle on No. 5. Take a look at Scott's great 40-foot roll that got him to three under for the day:
After a blistering opening nine of 31, Scott stumbled a bit on the back side, pairing two birdies with two bogeys for an even-par 37.
According to Justin Ray of the Golf Channel, starting strong puts Scott in very familiar territory, but he has reason to be wary on Sunday:
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
Here's what Scott had to say in regards to his opening round, courtesy of Golf Digest:
Another big name near the top of the leaderboard is one that's been in this position plenty of times before, but it's certainly been a while. That's right, Tiger Woods shot a fine three-under 69 to begin his return to the British Open.
Woods began with a couple of blemishes, taking bogeys at the first two holes; however, he rebounded nicely and made the turn in one over. Shortly after, he began his surge.
A great back nine of a four-under 33 was the result of five birdies in six holes for Woods. He got things going nicely with the flat stick, sinking a 25-footer for birdie:
The former world No. 1 followed that up with this stellar tee shot on the par-three 13th to within 10 feet:
Still, it was an interesting round for Tiger, as his drive on the 17th hole took an unfortunate bounce and struck a volunteer in the face. Take a look at the incident, via ESPN Highlights:
ESPN's Trey Wingo noted the strange yet favorable bounce for Woods:
Tiger getting all the members bounces today..including one of the marshals face on 17.. playing 18 two back of the lead on the par 5— trey wingo (@wingoz) July 17, 2014
The start from Woods is practically right on par with his opening performance in 2006 at Royal Liverpool—the last time he won a British Open. Here's a comparison of the two rounds, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:
Unfortunately, the opening round of the tournament didn't bring about optimal results for every member of the field.
Henrik Stenson was one of the favorites heading into the Open Championship due to his recent stellar play. However, he was visibly unhappy with his even-par round on Thursday and showed it on the 17th hole with his own impression of Roy McAvoy from Tin Cup:
Ernie Els had an unfavorable start to his round due to this uncharacteristic three-putt from about one foot away, via theScore:
Most of us have done that before—just not in a British Open.
One player who struggled throughout the entire day was defending champion Phil Mickelson.
He appeared to be on point early in his round, parring his first six holes. However, things took a turn for the worse on No. 7, as he took his first bogey of the day. Mickelson was able to birdie No. 9 to make the turn at even par, but the back nine loomed large.
After a second straight birdie at the par-five 10th, Mickelson bogeyed three of his last six holes to finish with a two-over 74. Ray noted this is not uncommon for a defending Open champion:
Heavy is the crown. Phil Mickelson: 4th straight @The_Open defending champ to card +2/worse in 1st Rd of title defense.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 17, 2014
His position doesn't bode well for a comeback in the ensuing rounds, either:
Phil Mickelson: 8 shots back of McIlroy. In his 5 major wins, was never more than 5 back after 1st round.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 17, 2014
That's not Lefty's only problem. Tied for 84th, he is very much in danger of missing the cut.
Things are looking extremely promising for Friday's action, as 48 players finished Round 1 under par and within five strokes of the lead.
Expect a greater chance of rain and some heavier winds throughout the remainder of the tournament, making scoring conditions rather difficult and keeping the field close until Sunday.
With so many of golf's big names in contention, we should be in for quite a memorable Open Championship.