Welcome to golf’s longest day — Thursday’s first round of the 150th Open Championship and it was rookie Cameron Young who got the best of the Old Course with swarms of credentialed contenders on his heels.
Young, the presumptive Rookie Of The Year for the PGA Tour, got out early, took advantage of the morning’s prime scoring conditions and went a perfect 18-for-18 in hitting greens and produced eight birdies on his way to the first round lead.
Young took advantage of virtually no wind at the start of his round and got to work quickly, making hay early the way you have to on the Old Course. With birdies at two, three, five and six — he was already four-under when he hit the Loop. Young, who has three top threes on the PGA Tour this season, birdied nine, 11 and 12 then kept his head above water on the tough holes turning for home. Eighteen was playing the easiest on the course and Young finished off his perfect day there with an easy birdie — his scorecard read 31-33.
“It was a combination of things,” Young explained. “I managed the tee shots really well — and thinking my way around a links course is most important.”
Young did a pretty good job of that considering he missed the cut last week at the Renaissance Club.
As the day wore on, the winds picked up and play slowed to a torturous crawl as rounds were going past the six-hour mark.
Things got lively on the grounds when Rory McIlroy went out and promptly holed a 55-footer for birdie at the first. Rory then reeled off three straight starting at the par five fifth and by the time he birdied the 12th to finish The Loop, the betting favorite worked his way to five-under. His only gaff came with a careless second at 13 that led to his only bogey. But he bounced back quickly with birdie at 14 then held on and took advantage of the 18th, like just about everyone did on this birdie-filled day.
The scorecard for Rors read 66.
“I got off to a perfect start with the putt at one,” Rory said in a major understatement about the 55-footer. “Overall, really, really happy. I just need to keep it going.”
Rory found himself sandwiched between two Cams — Young and Smith. Smith, the reigning Players champion, was on the good side of the draw with Young and McIlroy. The Aussie made his birdies where most did. He had six of them and his lone bogey came at the par three 11th.
There was a surprise party-crasher with Smith at five-under. It was qualifier Robert Dinwiddie. He plays the Challenge Tour, the DP World’s version of the Korn Ferry. He lost his DP World card and has an unimpressive resume.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler got himself in the conversation with an opening 68 and was one of eight players in at four-under. World No. 9 Viktor Hovland was in there despite some battles with a couple of pot bunkers. LIV-defector Dustin Johnson put himself in the equation and was one of the eight.
It was a good day for most of the world’s top 10. No. 5 Xander Schauffele shot 69, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Matt Fitzpatrick struggled but didn’t shoot themselves out of it. They were all in at even par 72. No. 4 Patrick Cantlay was in with 70. Only No. 3 Jon Rahm underachieved — a balky putter left him tied for 77th at one-over and he’ll have to do better on Friday. Only the low 70 and ties stick around for the weekend.
In all, 54 players shot under par and conditions were ripe for birdies. “I’ve never seen a links course of this standard play so short,” observed former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
Firm and fast equals drives pushing the 400-yard mark.
The R&A countered with some wicked pin placements and will need to find more of them to protect the honor of the Old Course.
What is needed is some stiff wind and that doesn’t look like a possibility.
So brace yourselves — this 150th Open Championship has a long way to go.
On Friday, the afternoon guys will have their shot at tame conditions as there’s some rain in the forecast, which could really pump up the birdie balloon…
Yes, it’s painfully obvious what technology has done to the Old Course.
It’s playing so very short, but still packs some punch.
This one’s going to be something to see.
Friday Morning Update: Early morning clouds yielded light rains that softened the greens and made scoring conditions perfect with very, very light, if any wind. Dustin Johnson moved into the early lead, adding 67 to his opening 68 and posted nine-under for 36 holes. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was a shot behind at eight-under (68-68) along with Tyrrell Hatton (70-66). Cam Smith got off to a birdie-birdie-birdie start and was quickly to eight-under after his first three holes. Adam Scott got to seven-under thanks to a 65. Patrick Cantlay was moving up the leaderboard for the first time in a major. He five-under through his first 13 holes and seven-under for the tournament. First round leader Cameron Young was one-over for his first three holes and fell to seven-under. iger Woods was well on his way to an early exit from the championship. He was one-over for his round through 16 holes and seven-over for the championship. The projected 36-hole cut mark was even par.