July 17, 2014 - 8:53am
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T.J. Auclair
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Henrik Stenson
ESPN.com
Henrik Stenson channeled his inner Bo Jackson after an errant shot in the first round of the Open Championship on Thursday.

Henrik Stenson -- the No. 2-ranked player in the world -- is often a fun-loving guy. But, like all of us, he sometimes gets a little annoyed on the golf course.

That was evident on Thursday in the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. After a less than desirable iron shot on the par-4 17th hole, Stenson pulled a Bo Jackson and proceeded to snap his golf club with his knee.

Stenson made bogey on the hole, but bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 18th for an even-par 72.

Here's an old video of Jackson, inventor of the knee snapper:

 

 

Video: Stenson breaks club over knee
July 17, 2014 - 8:26am
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T.J. Auclair
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Sports Images
Rory McIlroy got off to another fantastic first-round start, firing a 6-under 66 at Royal Liverpool to take the early clubhouse lead in the Open Championship.

Rory McIlroy got off to a dream start Thursday in the first round of the Open Championship.

The two-time major winner fired a bogey-free, 6-under 66 to take the early clubhouse lead at Royal Liverpool.

McIlroy is looking for his first major win since the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and his first win on the PGA Tour since the 2012 BMW Championship. He has six top-10 finishes in 10 PGA Tour starts this season, highlighted by a runner-up showing at the Honda Classic.

RELATED: Open Championship leaderboard | Rory's scorecard | Complete coverage

Though he's in a bit of a drought stateside, McIlroy notched a win at the European Tour's flagship event -- the BMW PGA Championship -- in May.

It's not much of a surprise to see McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard in the first round. Including today's 66 McIlroy is a combined 103-under par in rounds 1, 3 and 4, in official events this season. It's the second round that's been raising eyebrows. McIlroy is a cumulative 9 over in Round 2s.

Last week's Scottish Open was a microcosm of McIlroy's trends. He started out with a brilliant, course-record 64 at Royal Aberdeen only to follow it up with a disappointing 78 in Round 2. He wound up finishing in a tie for 14th.

He's hoping to buck the trend this week.

"I don't know what it is," McIlroy told ESPN following Thursday's round. "Maybe I'm putting a little bit too much pressure on myself. I'm going to take it shot-by-shot. I know everyone says that, but that's what you've got to do."

In five Open starts as a professional, McIlroy's best finish is a tie for third in 2011 -- that's also his only top 20. 

McIlroy takes early clubhouse lead with 6-under 66
July 17, 2014 - 7:44am
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T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
Despite a bogey-bogey start, Tiger Woods bounced back to shoot a 3-under 69 in the first round of the Open Championship on Thursday.

All eyes were on Tiger Woods at Royal Liverpool as the Open Championship teed off on Thursday.

Pain-free in his return from back surgery, Woods -- playing in his first major championship of the season and just his third competitive round since March -- got off to a bumpy, bogey-bogey start at the course he overpowered in 2006 when he won the Open for a third time.

It didn't look good early on for the man trying to snag major victory No. 15 and his first since the 2008 U.S. Open.

RELATED: Open Championship leaderboard | Tiger's scorecard | Complete coverage

But, he quickly settled in and finished with a stellar 3-under 69 that left him two shots behind early clubhouse leader Matteo Manassero.

Woods birdied the fifth hole and rattled off four pars for an outward-nine of 1-over 36. Then he really got hot on Royal Liverpool's more scoring-friendly second nine.

After a par on the par-5 10th hole, Woods rattled off three consecutive birdies, bogeyed No. 14 and then bounced back with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 -- he nearly chipped in for eagle on the par-5 16th.

Woods closed out the round with par on the par-5 18th hole that was set up by a spectacular shot from a greenside bunker.

All in all, a solid start for Woods. 

Woods off to solid start with 3-under 69
July 17, 2014 - 7:16am
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T.J. Auclair
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Tom Watson
USA Today Sports Images
2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson -- a five-time Open Championship -- shot a 1-over 73 at Royal Liverpool on Thursday.

We call him "Captain," but you could also call him "Timeless Tom."

Tom Watson, 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain and a winner of five Open Championships, shot a 1-over 73 at Royal Liverpool in the first round of the Open on Thursday.

The 64-year-old -- a runner-up to Stewart Cink at the age of 59 in 2009 at Turnberry -- in a round that included four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.

RELATED: Open Championship leaderboard | Complete coverage | 2014 Ryder Cup

Just two weeks ago, Watson was granted an exemption into the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he's likely to play his final Open Championship.

Open winners are exempt until the age of 60. Watson is in the field this year on the final year of a five-year exemption as a past champion finishing inside the top 10 (2009). The R&A extended that exemption one more year so Watson could finish up at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf.

Watson wrote in his latest Captain's Blog that it would "probably" be his final Open, leaving the door at least cracked open in case he could somehow find a way to finish in the top 10 again this year or next.

Along with his five Open Championship victories, Watson has five other top-10 finishes.

Playing alongside Watson was Jim Furyk, currently No. 6 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. Furyk opened with a strong 4-under 68

Watson off to impressive start at Open Championship
Royal Liverpool
Scottsdale Golf via Twitter
The changes in the course conditions at Royal Liverpool from 2006 to this week have to be seen to be fully appreciated.

The Open Championship is just now teeing off, and much of the talk this week has been on the difference in the course conditions at Royal Liverpool in 2006 and this year. 

We've heard all the talk about how brown and dry it was back in 2006, when Tiger Woods only hit his driver once en route to victory, and how lush and green it is this year. But nothing I've seen drives the point home like these then-and-now images of the 18th hole in 2006 and this week.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Follow the Open Championship along with us all week

"This is a different golf course than what we played in `06," Woods said earlier this week. "It was hot, ball was flying. It was very dusty. Now we're making ball marks on the greens, which we weren't doing then."  

For the record, the one driver Woods hit back in 2006 was on the 16th hole of the first round. The ball wound up in the 17th fairway – but he still made birdie.

Difference at Royal Liverpool is as plain as brown and green
Jaxson Kelly
KSWB-TV
"I've never seen a kid hit a ball like that," John Kelly says of his 2-year-old son Jaxson.
The eve of golf's oldest championship seems like a fine time to showcase one of the game's youngest practitioners.
 
Meet 2-year-old Jaxson Kelly of National City, Calif., who loves to hit golf balls. He got his first set of clubs a year ago at the tender age of 1, and now hits the ball as far as 50 yards.
 
"We saw a set of clubs at a swap meet for $5 and brought them home. He won't put them down," his mother, Felicia Baker, told KSWB-TV, the Fox affiliate in San Diego. "It was the best $5 we've ever spent."
 
Baker and Jaxson's dad, John Kelly, take young Jaxson out to the range as often as possible. Wielding his clubs with a left-hand-low, spread grip, he dutifully works his way through bucket after bucket of balls.
 
At some point when he's a little older, Kelly plans to get him out on the course. For now, though, Jaxson is cheerily honing his craft on the range.
 
"I've never seen a kid hit a ball like that," Kelly said "It's pretty cool."
 
Here's the complete report from KSWB:
 
 
2-year-old cheerily hits balls 50 yards down practice range