Rory McIlroy leads The British Open Championship early, while Tiger Woods lurks three shots behind the Northern Irishman. Rory shot a six-under 66 in his first round. He completed his round without a bogey, and was three-under on both the front and back nine of the Royal Liverpool golf course. McIlroy has been lights out in the first rounds of tournaments this year, but has struggled to repeat those performances on the second day. As recently as last week in the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, Rory shot an opening round 64, but then followed that up with an abysmal 78 in the second round. That kind of inconsistency in his play will not win him The British Open Championship, especially with players shooting as low as they have today.
Tiger Woods began his first round in an unspectacular fashion. He bogeyed the first two holes to begin the tournament two-over par. Woods went on to birdie the par-five fifth hole, and finished the front nine at one-over par. He then birdied five of six holes on the back nine, starting with the eleventh hole. His putter seems to be working well for him so far this week. He is choosing his line decisively and then keeping his putts on those lines with a steady stroke. During the six-hole stretch of birdies, he did have one bogey on the 14th hole. Woods ended up shooting a three-under par, 69, in his first round of The British Open Championship.
Robert Karlsson posted an early clubhouse lead of three-under, shooting a 69. Then a trio of Italians led by the 21-year-old Matteo Manassero began climbing the leaderboard. Manassero finished with a five-under, 67, and that was with two bogeys in his round. His fellow compatriots, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, shot four-under par each in their first rounds. The brothers have had different trajectories in their careers, with Edoardo, who is two years older, struggling with injuries in recent years, while Francesco has been fairly consistent on the European Tour.
Other players who began The British Open Championship well besides Rory McIlroy, the lurking Tiger Woods, and the Italian trio mentioned above, are Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, and Brooks Koepka. All three players finished at four-under par. Sergio has eight top-ten finishes in the British, but has yet to win a major in his career. The Spaniard is keen on getting his first major victory on European soil. In addition to those listed above, there are also seven players at three-under par in the clubhouse.
There definitely seemed to be an advantage to teeing off early. As of 10 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, there were only 15 players still on the course at Royal Liverpool who were under par, compared to 32 golfers who had already finished their rounds by the same time. The course was playing rather easy for the most part in the morning, with over 45 players playing under par as of the same 10 A.M. time. But as the afternoon progressed, the winds seemed to pick up a bit and the sun dried and hardened the fairways and greens, which has made the ball run off the surfaces more easily.
Some of the players who have teed-off later in the afternoon, and were favorites coming into the tournament include Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. Of them, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott have begun their first rounds strongly. They are two-under and three-under respectively through the first five holes. Everyone who teed-off in the afternoon will have their work cut out for them to get catch up to the lurking Tiger Woods and the clubhouse leader Rory McIlroy in The British Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash