The first day of the 2019 Open Championship is in the books, and we’ve learned plenty already. We don’t know who’s going to win, but we’ve already got a pretty good idea of some big names that definitely won’t win. Let’s run down the big stories of the day.
Royal Portrush is a truly great Open venue
Aside from the curious choice to have internal out-of-bounds markers, one of which victimized Rory McIlroy on the first tee (more on that in a minute), Royal Portrush proved itself a worthy addition to the Open rotation. Even though the course hasn’t hosted an Open in 68 years, it appears to be the perfect test: challenging without being unfair, rewarding smart play while smacking down lazy or inaccurate shots. It’s a long way to go, but everything points toward Portrush deserving more shots at future Opens.
Big names punching out early
You could’ve made a lot of money if you bet Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy would go 76-78-79, respectively, on the day. McIlroy at least confined his madness to his first and last holes, which he shot in a combined 7-over. Mickelson and Woods both spread their ugliness over the entire course. All three will have to work to make the weekend.
JB Holmes steps up
Big-hitting JB Holmes, whose best finish in an Open came when he notched a solo third place three years ago, took control of the leaderboard with a five-under 66 that included a bogey on the first hole. Holmes’ secret? Not letting the sun-wind-rain combo get to him.
“Every time you play in an Open you're going to have unique conditions where it's going to be windy and more than likely rainy,” he said after his round. “You just have to accept those conditions, and the more you can do that and just try to play one shot at a time, that's really kind of the secret. And try not to get too aggressive, because it is so windy you can't always have complete control over your ball.”
Ireland’s Shane Lowry sits one stroke behind Holmes, and after him, an astounding 15 — 15! — players are tied for third. In that crew are golf executioners (Brooks Koepka), major winners (Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia), guys who should win majors before it’s all done (Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau), and of course Lee Westwood, who’s in a class by himself. We’ve got a long way to go til Sunday night, but anyone not already in this traffic jam is going to have a tough time getting around it.
Day 1 MVP: This dog
Not quite sure what happened, but somehow a beagle got onto the course early in the day. And this pup had a lot more fun on Royal Portrush than most anyone in the field:
And that’ll do it for Thursday. See you bright and early Friday morning, folks! Here are tee times to prepare.
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