British Open 2010: How Low Can You Go?

Coverin' The SpreadCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2010

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 15:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 17th hole during the first round of the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 15, 2010 in St Andrews, Scotland.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Morning Groups Benefit From Calm Conditions

That was the theme Thursday morning in Scotland, how low can you go? Calm morning conditions allowed the early groups to take dead aim at The Old Course at St. Andrews turning it into a shootout, something that is not all that common in a British Open.

Seventy-three players broke par in the first round, with 45 of those rounds in the 60s. Rory McIlroy, 21, led the way by shooting an impressive nine-under par 63, tying the record for the lowest round in a major. 

He has a two-shot lead over South African Louis Oosthuizen going into the second round, and it will be interesting to see how the youngster plays tomorrow after sleeping on that thought tonight.  He has never been in this position before in his short career as a professional.

Nipping at his heals is none other than John Daly, the “grip it and rip it” mentality golfer who had disappeared from the leaderboards for, well, about ten years (other than a tourney or two).  His I-Don’t-Give-a-Damn attitude, blistering long drives, and radical mullet hairstyle have always made him a fan favorite, and that is no different this week. 

If history means anything, Daly should have a good shot, having won the tournament at this very venue in 1995. He will enter Friday three shots behind the leader McIlroy, and well within striking distance (assuming Rory doesn’t play like an immortal again). 

Tiger Woods finally shows up on the leaderboard, after seemingly being a ghost since his solid performance at the Masters. His 67 puts him four shots behind the leader. He, like Daly, knows this course as well or better than anyone having won the British there twice (’00, ’05).

Other notables include Lucas Glover (-5), Y.E. Yang (-5), Lee Westwood (-5), Vijay Singh (-4), Camilo Villegas (-4), Ernie Els (-3), Justin Rose (-2).

Tougher Conditions, Higher Scores for Afternoon Pairings

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Of the 16 players on the leaderboard, only four teed off after the wind picked up around noon. It is unfortunate for the validity of the results, but this is the case for all British Opens. The courses are usually wide open, with pot bunkers and the occasional hazard being the only real obstacles.

The courses rely on the wind and harsh conditions to provide the havoc for the players.  The players who teed off in the AM just got lucky, and it will play a large role in who ultimately wins this tournament.

Much of the gallery was hoping for some late afternoon heroics from Phil Mickelson, but unfortunately for them he struggled just like his peers.  He didn’t make a birdie until his final putt of the day on the 18th hole, and, coupled with a double bogey, shot a one-over 73 (one shot under the projected cut-line). 

He was disgusted after the round and walked away from the course without speaking with reporters. Retief Goosen is another player who teed off in the afternoon, but he managed to post a three-under par 69. He equated that score to a 66 if he had played in the morning, although he was not complaining about getting the bad break. "You’ve still got to make a score,” he said.

With all the top-ranked players in contention, and the lopsided leaderboard, it is sure to be an exciting second round at the Old Course at St. Andrews.

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