Johnson Leads after a Day of Low Scoring
Dustin Johnson holds a slender lead after the first round of The 144th Open Championship at St Andrews.
The 31 year-old from South Carolina carded a seven-under-par 65 to go into the second day one shot ahead of compatriots Zach Johnson and Robert Streb, Englishman Danny Willett, South Africa’s Retief Goosen, Australia’s Jason Day and home hero Paul Lawrie, the Open champion at Carnoustie in 1999.
On a day of low scoring, particularly in the morning when the conditions were at their most benign, Louis Oosthuizen, the man who lifted the Claret Jug the last time the Championship was staged over the Old Course back in 2010, carded a five-under-par 67 to share eighth place with the favourite Jordan Spieth, who this week is bidding to become the first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win all three of the first Majors of the year.
Also on 67 are Kevin Na, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, and American amateur Jordan Niebrugge while English trio Luke Donald, Greg Owen and David Howell, Australia’s Matt Jones and Scotland’s Marc Warren all shot four under par rounds of 68 to finish the opening day in a share 13th place.
All thoughts that Johnson might have been wounded by the manner in which he lost last month’s US Open Championship were dispelled as the big-hitting American quickly got in his stride with birdies at the 2ND and 3RD and an eagle on the par-5 5TH. He also gained shots at the 9TH and 10TH and then defied the strengthening wind coming home with his fifth birdie of the day at the 14TH.
“I had a good look at birdie all day,” said the leader. “I think the only times I was out of position was at the 16TH and 17TH and I made a 10-footer for par on the 16TH and a 15-footer for par on 17. Other than that it was pretty relaxed.”
One man who was impressed by his performance was playing partner, Spieth, who had been the beneficiary of Johnson’s three-putt on the last hole at Chambers Bay. “I saw a 65 in our group, and if DJ keeps driving the ball the way he is, then I’m going to have to play my best golf to have a chance.
“It’s hard to argue with someone’s whose splitting the fairways at about 380-yards and two-putting for birdie on five or six holes. I don’t have that in my bag so I’ve got to make up for it with ball striking.”
Johnson’s 65 was the story of the day but no far behind was the exploits of Niebrugge, who marked his Open debut with a score which was one shot lower than the legendary Bobby Jones began with on his way to his second of three Open triumphs at St Andrews back in 1927. The America’s 67 also matched the previous best score by an amateur in an Open at the Old Course, set by legendary Irishman, Joe Carr, in the third round in 1960.
In normal circumstances such a score would have given Niebrugge a big lead in the race for the Silver Medal, awarded to the leading amateur who plays in The Open. However, in this instance, he is likely to face stiff competition from Ireland’s Paul Dunne and reigning Amateur champion, Romain Langasque from France, who both carded three under par rounds of 69. Elsewhere, two other amateurs, Oliver Schniederjans from America, and England’s Paul Kinnear, also impressed with two under par rounds of 70 while Kinnear’s compatriot, the double European Amateur champion Ashley Chesters, was one shot further behind.
More than 60 players broke par on the opening day but it was a different story for both Tom Watson and Tiger Woods who carded four-over par rounds of 76. English three-time champion, Sir Nick Faldo, propped up the field on 11-over par 83.