Skip to main content
The 148th Open Royal Portrush

The 148th Open


What happened on Day One

68 years of waiting finally came to an end on Thursday morning and what happened at Royal Portrush thereafter was a thrilling ride full of drama as The 148th Open burst into life.

American JB Holmes has the overnight lead, with his 66 good enough to take a one-stroke lead over Ireland’s Shane Lowry.

Here are the big stories from Day 1.

Holmes cracks the case

JB Holmes’ Open record is rather modest, with a distant third place finish at The 145th Open at Royal Troon his only notable result.

But the 37-year-old looked like a links expert as he flew around the Dunluce course, compiling six birdies and just one bogey – which came all the way back at the first.

The weather certainly favoured the afternoon starters, with infrequent bursts of intense rain and blustery winds disrupting the morning players.

And Holmes cashed in, despite a period of poor form prior to arriving.

“I hit it great. I didn't miss too many shots. When I did, I missed them in the right spot. I putted well, stuck to our game plan and just executed it about as perfectly as I could do it,” he said.

“It's been a pretty rocky year. I played great that one tournament [Genesis Open], had a win. You take that away, it's probably actually been one of my worst years. I've really struggled with my swing.

“I've been practising the last couple of weeks. I've been playing great, so I felt very confident coming in. I was hitting it great and putted well, so I wasn't really surprised.”

Lowry keeps Irish eyes smiling

When the gates opened at 6am on Day 1, the fans flocked in – desperate to secure a vantage point that would give them the best view of Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

But it was another man from the island of Ireland who stole the show, with Shane Lowry taming the wild early conditions to shoot a measured 67.

Lowry led for much of the day and was only passed by Holmes when the calmer afternoon conditions paid dividends for the later starters – a testament to his fine round.

“I was quite anxious going out there this morning,” he said. “The wind was up early. But the first few holes played okay, downwind and I got off to a nice solid start.

“I was off and running and I was enjoying myself and I played some good golf. I missed a couple of chances coming in but I got a great break, and a good up-and-down on 16.

“I also had a great break on 17, and managed to make par. I'm fairly happy with four-under. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the crowds are unbelievable and cheered on every tee box.

“Every green is such a special feeling. I tried to enjoy that as much as I can while I was doing my work and then getting down to business. It's going to be an exciting few days ahead.”

Traffic jam at -3

Holmes may be in the lead but his advantage is slender, with Shane Lowry sitting on his shoulder and no less than 13 players on -3.

That list boasts three major champions, in Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka, and a former world number one in Lee Westwood.

Add in Jon Rahm, Tony Finau and Tommy Fleetwood plus back-nine sensation Ryan Fox and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and it’s an impressive bunch all ready to make a Friday charge.

Big name strugglers

It wasn’t all eagles and birdies though. Royal Portrush is not a course that respects reputations and several big names struggled to get to grips with the Dunluce Links.

Phil Mickelson stumbled to a +5 76, while Tiger Woods looked out of sorts as he went round in two strokes more. Both have work to do in order to make the cut.

But the biggest surprise was Rory McIlroy, who crashed his opening tee shot out of bounds on the first. And things hardly got better from there.

His second attempt cracked a spectator’s mobile phone screen and he eventually holed out with a quadruple bogey on the first, before a triple bogey at the last consigned him to an eight-over 79.

"I would like to punch myself," the four-time major winner told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I made a couple of stupid mistakes. I was pretty nervous on the first tee and hit a bad shot. I showed some resilience in the middle of the round and was trying to fight back into the championship but then I finished off poorly as well.

"If I look back, I undid all my good work to recover on the last three holes. At the end of the day, I play golf to fulfil my ambitions, not anyone else's, but I wish I could have given the crowd something to cheer about.”

Clarke provides the perfect start

You had to be up early to see Darren Clarke attack the Dunluce Links but he did not disappoint, cracking the first shot of The 148th Open down the fairway before rolling in a birdie on the green.

The 2011 Champion Golfer eventually finished with a level-par 71 and admitted it was hard to keep his focus during the round.

“I didn’t think I’d feel the way I did,” he said. “But the support, everything from the crowds, just everything about it when I was about to hit my tee shot. Wow, it’s The Open, we’re back in Portrush. It was amazing.

“I probably wasted two or three shots, which is a bit frustrating, but 71 is not a bad start for me.”

Brillo Grillo

It had been three years since Louis Oosthuizen struck the last hole-in-one at The Open, finding his mark at Royal Troon at the notorious Postage Stamp.

But Emiliano Grillo reminded everyone just how much of a thrill it is to see a ball skip into the hole from a tee shot on a par-three.

The Argentine took advantage of a gettable flag, on the back left of the 13th green, and sent the crowd wild.

Fox’s new record

With 11 holes complete, Ryan Fox was losing his battle against Royal Portrush.

He was +3 and struggling in the rain, desperate for a ray of sunshine both in his game and the sky. What happened in the following seven holes caught everyone off guard.

The New Zealander’s drives flew straight, his irons found their mark and his putter became red-hot as he lit up the back nine of this famous old course.

Birdies at 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 18 swiftly followed and he finished the back nine in just 29 strokes – an Open record.

“My golf has been a little bit scratchy lately and I thought it was going to be another one of those days [after being three-over through 11] but I made an eight-footer for birdie on 12 and felt a bit better,” he said.

“A few went in over those last seven holes and it’s nice to turn in a score like that – it’s been a long time coming.”

Latest from The Open