Jordan at the double
There are a large number of punters who believe this year’s Open Championship will be dominated by a 21 year-old American called Jordan.
Jordan Spieth is seen as the clear favourite to claim the Claret Jug and there might well be a Jordan double after another 21 year-old of that name led the race for the amateur Silver Medal in the early stages of the first round.
Jordan Niebrugge – pronounced Neebruggie – card a five-under-par 67 which lifted him into the top-ten on the leaderboard and left him leading the race for the Amateur prize.
The American Walker Cup player travelled to last month’s Amateur Championship at Carnoustie. He went on also to compete in the Brabazon Trophy before successfully coming through at Final Qualifying and all that competitive golf would seem to have given him the perfect platform heading to St Andrews.
He raced to the turn in three-under-par 33 and then made further birdies at the 10th, 12th and 18th with his only blip of the day coming at the 13th where he missed the green in two.
“I got off to a good start and managed to keep it going,” said the Oklahoma State student. “I had a couple of tough holes on the back nine but I hung in there and finished things off with a nice birdie at the last.
“I’ve played a lot of links golf in the last month and I think that has helped,” he added. “I feel comfortable out here. It tests your imagination but it’s a lot of fun. I like it a lot.”
It is indicative of the challenge Niebrugge will face in the race for the Silver Medal that even after a 67 he only holds a two shot lead over Ireland’s Paul Dunne who was out in the second game on the course and impressed the large galleries with his 69.
“I got off to a nice start,” admitted the 22 year-old from Greystones who for the second year in-a-row qualified for The Open after heading the Final Qualifier at Woburn. “I think it helped that I played last year. I didn’t feel the nerves on the practice days as much as I did last year. I used my practice round better. I was a bit overwhelmed last year but I felt much more comfortable this time. I’m very excited to have shot 69 but I’m even more excited about getting a bit of lunch.
“I was very nervous on the first tee but once I got a couple of early birdies under my belt I was fine. I saw on the screen at the second that I was leading The Open and that was kind of cool. My first thought was I wondered if anyone at home was going to take a picture of it. It’s a kind of novelty. When I’m 70 it will be nice to sit in the pub and tell people about the day I led The Open. Hopefully I can do it a few times more.
“I went out with a number in my head,” he added. “I thought 68 would be a good score out there. I’ve come up just short but I’m pleased with what I’ve done. It’s a good round but there’s a long way to go and we don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather. I’m told there’s some bad stuff coming in so it’s good to get a score on the board.”
Niebrugge and Dunne are two of nine amateurs competing in this year’s Championship. At lunch on the first day Paul Kinnear, Oliver Schiederjans and Romain Langasque were also under par into the second half of their rounds. The others were among the late starters.