15 Open Championship pre-tourney favorites and where they stand after Day 1
R&A via Getty Images
HOYLAKE, England — We’re one-fourth of the way into this 151st Open Championship and it’s complete with a few surprises — Christo Lamprecht! — that have popped up along the way.
Royal Liverpool’s pot bunkers have proved menacing. The internal out of bounds problematic. The conditions have been calm — although that might not be the case for the rest of the week.
The tournament isn’t won on Thursday, but it certainly is important to position yourself for three more crucial rounds. Here’s where some of the pre-tournament favorites sit heading into a critical second round on Friday. And, surprisingly — or not — many of them are still very much in this tournament.
AN EXTREMELY GOOD START
Tommy Fleetwood — Fleetwood hasn’t been shy about going low in major championships, despite the fact he’s yet to win one. He shot his second (!) major 63 during the final round of the U.S. Open last month. On Thursday, he was four under on the back while playing in front of a friendly home crowd. Fleetwood grew up in Southport, just 20 miles north. He shot 66, and he’s tied for the first-round lead.
A VERY GOOD ROUND THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
Jordan Spieth — No one has played better links golf than Spieth has the past eight years, and he’s off to a good start here, no matter he’s missed his last two cuts (and four of his last six, dating back to May). Spieth shot a two-under 69 despite a double on 8.
A BUNCH OF GOOD STARTS
Scottie Scheffler — For as much as Scheffler has been annoyed with people talking about his flatstick struggles, he finished 126th in strokes gained: putting, yet was 11th off the tee and 11th in approach. If his last several months have taught us anything, it’s that he’ll be hanging around the top of the leaderboard this weekend anyway. He shot 70 and is four back.
Brooks Koepka — Surprise, surprise, Brooks (70) is in the mix. He wasn’t thrilled with his play on Thursday. Let’s see what happens Friday.
Patrick Cantlay — A one-under 70 for a player who is still eyeing that first major title.
Xander Schauffele — Another player searching for major No. 1, Xander started shaky (bogeys on 3 and 4) but rebounded with birdies on 5 and 7. Everything from there on was a par, except for a birdie on the last to get him to one under (70), four off the lead.
Viktor Hovland — He was two over through 10 and without a birdie, but he made three on 11, 12 and 16 to shoot 70. He’s already recorded two top 10s in majors this season and is on a good pace for a third.
A BUNCH OF PRETTY GOOD STARTS
Rory McIlroy — No surprise that McIlroy’s group had the biggest gallery of the day, finishing in the twilight. He won here in 2014, won last week and has almost won (several) majors in the past eight years. He made his first birdie on 2 and was even after four holes, but bogeys on 8 and 12 pushed him to two over. He got one back by draining a 42-footer for birdie on 13 and made it back-to-back with a birdie on the par-5 15th. But what McIlroy’s round will really be remembered for was his par on 18. His second shot into the par-5 went into a pot bunker left of the green, which earlier in the day led to one player making 10 and, in the group ahead of McIlroy, Justin Thomas making 9. McIlroy couldn’t get his first attempt out but managed to splash the second to 10 feet. He drained the putt to save par, shoot 71 and gain some major momentum heading into Friday.
Tyrrell Hatton — Things were going well until they weren’t for Hatton, who was two under after five but bogeyed three of his first five to start the back nine. He played the final four in one under to shoot an even-par 71.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
Cameron Smith — Smith shot a one-over 72, but he also shot an over-par round (73) in the third round of last year’s Open. You might remember that it didn’t hold him back. This one might not, either.
Rickie Fowler — Oof. Fowler was having himself a nice morning in Hoylake — where he was the runner-up in 2014 — but then came the 18th hole. He was two under with a single bogey on the card, and he was even in good shape after finding the fairway on the tricky driving hole, leaving him 289 yards in to the par-5. Then, he went out of bounds. And then it happened again. He made 8 and shot 72.
Shane Lowry — Lowry, the 2019 Open champion, shot 72 after playing the last seven holes in two over. He struggled around and on the greens, failing to take advantage of a pretty good ball-striking day. “Yeah, I don’t really know what to make of my day,” Lowry said. “Kind of felt pretty average. Some nice stuff but some average stuff as well.”
Collin Morikawa — It was a mixed bag for Morikawa, who struggled off the tee and shot 73. At two over, he’s seven off the lead.
THEY MIGHT BE IN TROUBLE
Jon Rahm — It was a slow start for the 2023 Masters champ, who didn’t make a birdie on the front nine (eight pars, one bogey) and followed his first on 10 with a bogey on 12. Rahm struggled putting, missing tries from 8 feet (on 7), 7 feet (on 11), 5 feet (on 15) and 4 feet (on 16). Rahm closed with a bogey on 18 when he had to burn a stroke wedging to the side to escape a pot bunker. He shot 74.
Dustin Johnson — He’s been a sneaky-good links player in his career and has top 10s in his last two Opens, but DJ shot a three-over 74 on Thursday, which included a double on the par-4 14th when he couldn’t get out of the long stuff.