Six things we learned from the first round of The 146th Open
As the second round gets underway at Royal Birkdale, here’s what we learned as American trio Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar shot to the top of the leaderboard at The 146th Open.
It’s extraordinarily hard work in the wind!
Plenty of brave fans gathered at the 1st hole at dawn to see the first few groups tee it up, but as they were greeted by dark skies and sideways rain, the weather played havoc with those unfortunate enough to be out in the worst of the conditions.
For most of the day the players enjoyed a tranquil breeze around the Royal Birkdale links, but Mark O’Meara’s first shot of the The 146th Open – which sailed out of bounds – set the tone early on.
The average score on the 1st hole was 4.8 until mid-morning, almost an entire shot over par, showing how tough things were with the wind blowing across the course.
The weather is only expected to get more turbulent over the coming days, which could prove pivotal to the chances of some.
Par on 17 is a shot dropped
The par-five 17th is the ultimate example of a risk-reward hole – with the narrow green guarded by three pot bunkers. But with gusts down plenty of players were going for it in two, and the scores on that hole showed it.
The average number of shots per player was 4.5, meaning to shoot anything other than birdie is giving up ground on the rest of the field. Matt Kuchar’s par on the hole cost him the overnight lead.
Interestingly, the par-four 6th also played at 4.5 shots per player, showing just how tough that hole is playing by comparison.
You don’t need to be a major champion, but it helps
Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka, both leading on five-under par, will have their eyes over their shoulders on Friday after getting out in front.
Everyone is well aware of the recent run of first-time major winners – seven straight, to be precise – and the American duo are the only two inside the top ten to have claimed one of golf’s top prizes.
Matt Kuchar (also five-under) has been in contention often in majors but remarkably still hasn’t won one, while Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyami, Paul Casey, and Ian Poulter are all lurking.
Charley Hoffman, meanwhile, has now led the way at some point in every major so far this year. He hit the top briefly after back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th, but dropped back to three-under before his card was signed.
The home-grown hopes are alive and kicking!
Five Englishmen, plus the Scottish duo of Richie Ramsay and Martin Laird and Wales’ Stuart Manley, are all under par following excellent first rounds.
Paul Casey – who has four top-ten finishes in majors in the last three years – is top of the pile for now, but Ian Poulter’s three-under par 67 was immense in far trickier conditions than others faced out there.
Richard Bland was arguably the star performer however; the 44-year-old is also three-under par in his first Open appearance since 1998’s championship, also at Royal Birkdale. He now has a great chance to make the cut at The Open for the first time in his career.
There’s plenty for the home fans to cheer.
Records happen at Royal Birkdale
The last time we had three joint leaders after the first round of an Open championship was back in 2008 at Royal Birkdale – Rocco Mediate, Graeme McDowell and Robert Allenby topped the standings.
And the last opening round at The Open with only Americans sharing the lead? The 1998 championship, also at Royal Birkdale, where Tiger Woods and John Huston led the way.
But if you reckon Matt Kuchar’s front nine was the best in history here, think again! Denis Durnian shot a 28 (six-under par) in the second round of the 1983 Championship.
Ian Baker Finch also matched Kuchar's 29 in 1991 – and went on to claim the Claret Jug.
Golfing fashion has always left a little to be desired…nothing’s changed
Jason Day and Justin Thomas got tongues wagging as they hit the links, with plenty of debate raging over their choice of clothing.
Thomas, a 24-year-old from Kentucky, teamed up a white shirt with a navy tie and cardigan combo.
“I didn't come here to dress well, I came here to try to play some good golf,” he said. “I don't wear a tie very often but I wore one every day in high school!”
World number six Day meanwhile was wearing white high-top trainers and some black jogging style bottoms.
And John Daly, 1995 Champion Golfer, and his caddy wore matching seriously loud trousers too – but we’ve come to expect that from ‘Wild Thing’.