Groundhog Day: British Open Eerily Similar to Recent US Open at Outset

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistJuly 16, 2015

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Are we sure that St. Andrews hasn't relocated to Chambers Bay?

While the Open Championship course doesn't resemble the U.S. Open course aesthetically, the leaderboards of the two events have striking similarities. 

Dustin Johnson has the clubhouse lead at seven under par. Jason Day scored the lowest opening round at a major in his career and sits at six under par. Jordan Spieth kept his calendar Slam hopes alive with a round of five under par.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

And, just like at the U.S. Open last month, Tiger Woods struggled his way to the bottom of the leaderboard at four over par.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Of course, all eyes are on Spieth, and rightly so. The 21-year-old is going for his third straight major title after winning the Masters and the U.S. Open to start the season. No player has won the first three majors of the year since Ben Hogan in 1953.

In only his third British Open, Spieth got off to a mammoth start at St. Andrews, with five birdies in his first seven holes. He had two bogeys and two birdies on the back nine to come home at even par and was very content with his opening round.

"I'm very pleased. It was a good start," he told Tom Rinaldi on ESPN.

What was most impressive was how the wunderkind was able to deal with the pressure of being the favorite.

With his quest for the calendar Slam, he was going to get a lot of attention anyway. But with world No. 1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy sitting at home with an ankle injury, the hype surrounding Spieth has reached a fever pitch.

Somehow, though, he was able to drown out the noise and just play golf.

"It just kind of happened in itself. Once you get to the tee you have so much to worry about that it never came into my mind," Spieth told Rinaldi.

Of course, Spieth wouldn't have such pressure and attention on his shoulders if his compatriot Johnson hadn't three-putted on the 18th green at Chambers Bay last month. 

Johnson's meltdown at the U.S. Open was one that would have left many players cowering in regret for months (or years).

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

However, it seems that Johnson was able to take the positives from the experience and leave the heartbreak in the past.

"At the Open I played really well. I felt like I was in control of my game. But I couldn't really control the ball bouncing," he told Rinaldi on ESPN after his great round on Thursday. "It just didn't bounce my way."

That impressive outlook led the American to a round of 65 that included five birdies, an eagle and no bogeys.

As Ryan Ballengee of Devil Ball Golf wrote, Johnson made St. Andrews look pedestrian:

"The 31-year-old made the Old Course look like a pitch-and-putt, dominating in fairly benign conditions with the combination of astounding length and strong mid-range putting, which isn't always his strong suit."

While none of Johnson's demons will officially be exorcised until he has a major trophy in his hands, he is certainly off to a great start.

Day, the Aussie who had a scary bout with vertigo at Chambers Bay but still managed to finish in the top 10, is also impressing in Scotland. 

Jul 16, 2015; St. Andrews, Fife, SCT; Jason Day tees off on the 2nd during the first round for the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews - Old Course. Mandatory Credit: Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to antiviral medication and rest, Day is feeling healthy and back on the front page of the leaderboard after an opening round of 66. The 27-year-old is looking to vastly improve on his best British Open finish, a tie for 30th back in 2011.

On the other end of the leaderboard, Woods began with four bogeys in his first seven holes and wasn't able to recover from that atrocious start. At four over par, the 14-time major champion is currently in danger of missing his third cut in the last four majors.

There is a lot of golf left to be played at St. Andrews, and with wind and rain in the forecast, there's no telling what the next 54 holes of golf can bring.

But after 18 holes of play, it looks like the biggest stars have carried their form over from Washington, for better or for worse.

Now we can only hope that the British Open has enough drama to rival the U.S. Open right until the very end.

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