No clear faves in British Open

Rufina Vignone
Luglio 23, 2017

But while sideways rain and wind that can almost knock you over might show up on Friday, the opening round conditions made Royal Birkdale, a course that saw Padraig Harrington's 3-over as the winning score in 2008, a course where birdies were not only possible but necessary to keep pace with the leaders.

The world No 3 dropped shots at the third and ninth before rescuing a par at the 10th by chipping in from off the green, and he admitted that this and the subsequent 20-minute rain delay had been the turning point in his round.

The R&A responded with an invisible white line in the turf. "And I was only 35 feet from the hole". "So as I say, good week to back me".

And then he hit another one.

"This is unsafe", he said to his caddie. "So that's been put in there to protect the fans and the players".

"But again, all it takes is one week for those odds to go back to, I don't know, 7/1, 8/1 at Quail Hollow (for next month's US PGA Championship)". McIlroy was at 4 under, three shots out of the lead.

Some remarkable up-and-down saves kept McIlroy in the red even when a makeable putt finally slid by on 13 to cost the 28-year-old his first shot for 25 holes. The R&A opted for a local rule instead of going to the trouble of planting dozens of trees.

Shaun Norris, playing with a marker after making the cut on the number, shot a 5-under-65 on Royal Birkdale, setting the pace for what could be a day of low scoring.

"I don't think anyone was going to go down there, anyway".

"It's early days", he said. And I went with those today and it worked. "This course has a lot of crosswinds, so it's tough to judge how far the ball is going to fly depending on what shot you play".

And although McIlroy concedes he sounds like a "broken record" when he claims to be close to regaining top form when results suggest otherwise, he could not help raising an eyebrow when told about his pre-tournament odds.

McIlroy was written off by many after his disastrous start. That ranks high among recent Opens, some of which was blamed on Woods not being in the field. "I feel like I certainly have as good a chance as anybody", he said. "I hope he tees it up at The Open".

Slumbers said the crowd this week should rank No. 4 among biggest crowds since the R&A started keeping attendance figures in 1960. His short game will come in handy, and of course, there's the adjustment to slower green speeds at Royal Birkdale because of the wind.

This time, he was playing in front of thousands at the British Open.

"I think there are some wonderful players out there now that people want to come and watch, and the game is moving forward", Slumbers said.

Kuchar, along with Brooks Koepka, had shared the lead with Spieth after the opening round and posted a respectable 71 earlier on Friday to move to four-under for the championship. "It was just a matter of time for them". "There was nothing for me to celebrate. I've done the same thing for years". He had a few weeks off, which was well deserved.

The Open is the only one of golf's four majors to be played both outside the United States and on true links golf courses, but Americans have always fared well in it, winning just under 40% of tournaments in the Masters era since 1934. Dustin Johnson is at three-over, which was no mean feat as he was constantly under the pump off the tee, and on the greens. I had to find a couple of little key thoughts, and I feel like I have.

But, with the likes of Japan's world number two Hideki Matsuyama looking a threat, can another first-time victor lift the Claret Jug in front of Birkdale's distinctive white Art Deco clubhouse on Sunday evening?

"One thing these babies don't like is water", veteran Getty Images photographer David Cannon said of his cameras, but added that extreme conditions do make for "great pictures".

However, McIlroy has proved in the past he is made of stern stuff and a 18-foot birdie putt at the last completely changed his perspective of his round. He turned pro later that year and quickly earned a European Tour card, and he was on his way.

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