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Live Notes: Round 1
Keep refreshing this page all day long, as our crew in Southport will keep you abreast of all the latest happenings at the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
All times Eastern
HOLDING TO FORM: By now, you've heard that all eight Open Championships held at Birkdale have been won by either and American or an Australian.
In keeping with that, five of the top six players after Thursday's first round are either American or Australian. The lone exception is Ireland's Graeme McDowell. -- Melanie Hauser, 4:42 p.m.
ADD ALLENBY TO THE LIST: As the other two current leaders did, Robert Allenby birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to jump to 1 under and take a share of the lead along with Rocco Mediate and Graeme McDowell.
Allenby has been on quite a roll, as of late. He lost in a playoff to Justin Leonard at the Stanford St. Jude Championship and he tied for third behind Anthony Kim earlier this month at the AT&T National. Click here for Allenby's scorecard. -- Mark Spoor, 1:55 p.m.
MCDOWELL JOINS THE FRAY: Graeme McDowell, who won last week's Scottish Open, is at it again today at Royal Birkdale. McDowell birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to get to 1 under in the same fashion as Rocco Mediate. Thanks to a bogey by Adam Scott on the 16th, there is currently a three-way tie for the lead.
SCORECARDS: Scott | McDowell | Mediate
-- Mark Spoor, 1:12 p.m.
ROCCO IS ROLLIN': It must be something about the majors.
Rocco Mediate has birdied his final two holes and now sits pretty in the clubhouse with a 1 under 69. Adam Scott currently sits atop the leaderboard at 2 under, but Mediate has a bit of an advantage -- he's done for the day. -- Mark Spoor, 12:42 p.m.
MICKELSON SURPRISED: The way Phil Mickelson looks at it, he's got to shoot something pretty cool Friday to put himself back into contention in this 137th Open Championship.
|Goosen braves elements|
|Harrington holds up|
|Caddies earn keep|
That's what happens when you open with a 79. And, oh, that included a penalty stroke on the sixth hole when Mickelson lost a ball in the right rough and couldn't identify his ball. He found two Callaway balls, but wasn't sure which was his. He took a triple there.
"When I was 6 over through six, I didn't think it was that bad a start relative to what the field would do," Mickelson said. "I thought most guys would be about 2, 3, 4 over through six holes."
At least. Although the rain slacked up later in the day, the morning players were pounded with rain and wind.
"I don't know how to describe it," he said. "You try to go play in it and you get an idea, but it was very difficult."
Mickelson, who tied for fifth at the Masters and tied for 18th at the U.S. Open, knows the back nine played easier for him, but it wasn't easy enough to close the chasm.
"The wind came, softened a little bit, so the back wasn't nearly as tough as the front," he said. "I think that when I was playing, I thought anything in the 70s would be a pretty good score, and I was able to do that. But I don't think it's going to hold up as well as I thought."
As of this writing, there are three players under par. Mickelson, whose best Open Championship finish was third in 2004, did'?t think anyone would shoot even.
"I really thought (my score) would be right around the middle of the field, now it's going to be in the bottom third." -- Melanie Hauser, 12:27 p.m.
TELL US AGAIN - HOW HARD IS IT? Of the top 63 players on the board right now, only seven of them played in this morning's brutal conditions. The remainder teed off after noon, local time. To further that point, TNT reported that players finishing before noon ET were averaging 79.5. Players finishing between noon and 4 p.m. ET averaged 76.58. Talk about catching a break. -- Melanie Hauser and Mike McAllister, 12:24 p.m. ET
PARTYING LIKE IT'S 1986: Greg Norman is turning the clock back at Royal Birkdale this week.
The two-time Open champion played his first nine holes in even par, making one birdie and a lone bogey, to remain among the contenders on a dreary afternoon on the northwest coast of England.
Norman, who won in 1986 at Turnberry and 1993 at Royal St. George's, has played Birkdale two times previously. He tied for 19th in 1983 and shared ninth in 1991. Here is the Open Championship record for Chris Evert's new husband:
|Events||Cuts Made||1st||2nd||3rd||Top-10s||Scoring Avg.||Earnings|
-- Helen Ross, 11:35 a.m.
UPS AND DOWNS: Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson are always pre-tournament favorites at the majors.
So far, Scott is one of the few players to post a sub-par front nine at Royal Birkdale and that's why he finds himself tied for the lead with Anthony Wall at 1 under.
As for Mickelson? In the first major without Tiger Woods since the 1996 PGA Championship, let's just say Lefty didn't get off to the start he was hoping for.
Playing through those brutal morning conditions, Mickelson struggled mightily, limping into the clubhouse with a disappointing 9-over 79.
Along with one birdie and seven bogeys, Mickelson also had a triple-bogey 7 on the sixth hole.
After hitting his drive on into the right-hand rough at No. 6, Mickelson was unable to find his original ball -- though he found two of the same brand as his -- within the five-minute limit and was forced to take a penalty stroke.
From there, it took four more shots to get in the hole.
The 9-over mark was Mickelson's highest opening round in relation to par at the Open. He also had a 79 in the first round at Carnoustie in 1999, but Carnoustie plays to a par 71 as opposed to Royal Birkdale's 70.
Mickelson's worst score in an Open Championship was right here at Birkdale in 1998 when he shot a 15-over 85 in the third round. -- T.J. Auclair, 11:19 a.m.
K.J. STARTS STRONG: A patient K.J. Choi helped his growing reputation at the Open Championship with a gutsy opening round of two-over-par 72 on Thursday.
Choi lies one shot behind early leaders Retief Goosen of South Africa and Canadian Mike Weir.
Choi, ranked 11th in the world, was delighted with his herculean effort as he chases his dream of becoming the first Asian to lift a major at the year's third major.
"When we started in the morning, conditions were very tough. It was very windy and rainy but I tried to keep my focus and I think it helped me. I just told myself to stay focused and be comfortable out there," said Choi.
"I didn't look too far ahead and I prayed to the Lord to keep me going." -- 11:05 a.m.
JEAN IS BACK: Are we going to party like it's 1999? Jean Van de Velde sure hopes not.
Van de Velde, he of the colossal final-hole meltdown at Carnoustie in 1999, shot an even-par 34 on the front nine at Birkdale and was just a shot off the lead headed to his inward nine.
Thursday's conditions, similar to those at Carnoustie on that Sunday evening nine years ago, seemed to be baffling most -- but not Van de Velde.
The funny Frenchman played his way into this Open through a qualifier.
Illness and injuries have limited Van de Velde's play over the last few years, but he did win at the European Tour's Madeira Island Open in 2006.
This is Van de Velde's first start in an Open since 2005 at St. Andrews. -- T.J. Auclair, 10:35 a.m.
THE BEAT GOES ON: Sandy Lyle, despite having to withdraw after nine holes with a finger injury, made his 33rd career start at the Open Championship on Thursday. He is one of eight players in the field with at least 20 starts at the Open:
|Open Championship starts|
|Davis Love III||22|
--Helen Ross 8:49 a.m.
SO WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU MEAN? Pat Perez isn't a fan of this weather. Or the R&A's refusal to move the tees up on the sixth, 11th and 16th holes - all par 4s unreachable in two shots.
Or his opening 12-over-par 82. "I can't wait to get home," he said. "I'll be there tomorrow night.
" ... I was 10 over on the back nine. It got to that point where you fight and fight and fight. And then you get to the point where you don't care."
Perez was cold, wet and miserable. By his count, he had gone through four towels and three gloves. And, despite wearing a Zero rain jacket, his t-shirt and sweater were soaking wet.
"I don't think this is golf," he said. "I'm so cold I can't hold onto the club. I don't much like to play golf in weather like this. They do over here. I don't." -- Melanie Hauser, 8:40 a.m.
OLD AND NEW: Tom Watson is playing in his fifth Open Championship at Royal Birkdale while Sandy Lyle and David Frost each are competing in their fourth.
Here are the other players in the field this week who have played in multiple Opens at Royal Birkdale.
|1998||Mark O'Meara, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Davis Love III, David Duval, Peter Baker, Robert Allenby, Sandy Lyle, Stephen Ames, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Mark Calcavecchia, Philip Walton, David Frost, David Howell, Steve Stricker, Justin Leonard, Lee Westwood, Michael Campbell, Stewart Cink, Fredrik Jacobsen, Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Craig Parry, Toru Taniguchi Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Tom Watson, K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen, Matt Kuchar, John Daly, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Stuart Appleby|
|1991||Mark O'Meara, Craig Parry, Greg Norman, Colin Montgomerie, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, David Frost, Mark Calcavecchia, Jean Van de Velde, Philip Walton, Rocco Mediate and Sandy Lyle|
|1983||Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Sandy Lyle and David Frost|
Conversely, 41 players are competing in their first Open Championship.
They are: Peter Appleyard, Phillip Archer, Craig Barlow, Rohan Blizard, Adam Blyth, Gary Boyd, Ariel Canete, Joshua Cunliffe, Jamie Elson, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Paul Goydos, Benjamin Hebert, David Horsey, Jamie Howarth, Ryuji Imada, Hiroshi Iwata, Shintaro Kai, Martin Kaymer, Simon Khan, Anthony Kim, Doug Labelle, Brad Lamb, Pablo Larrazabal, Michael Letzig, Wen-Chong Liang, Michio Matsumura, Damian McGrane, Alexander Noren, Jeff Overton, Angelo Que, Reinier Saxton, Heath Slocum, Thomas Sherreard, Brandt Snedeker, Scott Strange, Andrew Tampion, Camilo Villegas, Martin Wiegele, Jay Williamson, Chris Wood and Azuma Yano. -- Helen Ross, 8:35 a.m.
HOW TOUGH IS IT? Through nearly seven hours of play in Thursday's first round, the average score is 77.82, or 7.82 over par. -- Melanie Hauser, 8:15 a.m.
OFF THE MARK: Mark Calcavecchia, the winner of the 1989 Open Championship winner, posted a 6-over 76 on Thursday, his third-worst opening round in 22 Open appearances. He began with matching 7-over 78s at Carnoustie in 1999 and Royal St. George's in 2003. -- John Bush, 8:00 a.m.
SIMON SAYS: Simon Dyson, who played in the first group of this soggy Thursday, reported the weather is the worst it's been all year. In his opinion, though, the way Royal Birkdale is set up is contributing to the misery.
"You put a 4-handicapper on that first tee and they'd probably shoot 100," Dyson said. "That's no exaggeration. It's nearly unplayable."
Dyson should know. He dropped eight shots to par in a three-hole stretch with a double bogey at the ninth, a quintuple at the 10th and a bogey at the 11th on the way to an opening 82.
"I don't blame him a bit," Dyson said when he was told about Sandy Lyle withdrawing after nine holes. "I felt like it after 10 but I've never done it in my lfe and I'm not starting now. It was very tough."
Dyson said he couldn't reach three of the par 4s with a driver and a 3-wood Thursday. He only found four holes playing downwind.
"You hit your best three shots and still don't get up -- (that) shows how hard it is," Dyson said. "I can't believe they didn't put the tees forward, and I think they'll come under fire, to be honest. But you've got to play." -- Helen Ross, 7:58 a.m.
LOWEST OF THE HIGH: There are a lot of high numbers being posted among those that have finished their first round already at Royal Birkdale. The lowest of those? Richard Jones, at 3-over-par 74. Here is a look at the others that have finished:
-- Mark Spoor, 7:40 a.m.
TOUGH ON THE ALTERNATES: Pat Perez and Jerry Kelly were both alternates for the Open Championship. They didn't find out they were in the field until last Friday.
Perez was the first of the two to get in after Luke Donald was forced to withdraw due to a wrist injury. Hours later, Kelly was in the field when David Toms pulled out.
While it was a thrill for both players to get a spot, the first round won't be very memorable.
In the miserable conditions, Perez had one birdie, eight bogeys, one double bogey and one triple bogey on his way to a 12-over 82.
Kelly wasn't any better. In fact, he was worse. The Wisconsin native who is missing a home game at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee this week, trudged along for a 13-over 83. Kelly had a 41 on the front and a 42 on the back. -- T.J. Auclair, 7:12 a.m.
NOT HAVING FUN: In a word, Craig Parry said, Thursday at Royal Birkdale was "bloody miserable."
Well, that was two words, but one only added the necessary emphasis to the other. The pint-sized Aussie hit the first tee shot in the 137th Open Championship and slogged his way around to a 77 that probably felt much better than the score indicated.
"It was an honor to hit the first tee shot, but after that, you know, it got really hard," Parry said. "The golf course itself is a lot harder than any other Open that we've played, (even) Carnoustie, and the length of it, it's just really hard."
Parry, who has played in 16 previous Opens, said Thursday was the worst opening day he?d ever seen, but not the worst day ever. He said the key was keeping focus as the wind whipped around the dunes and the rain beat down on the fairways.
"No one gives up, otherwise you wouldn't be playing in the Open Championship," Parry said. "All the guys that play here, they do their best to have a never-say-die attitude. You've just got to grin and bear it and do your best."
Speaking of grinning, Parry couldn't resist one dig. He was born in and still lives in a town called Sunshine, which is in the Victoria province in Australia. The seasons Down Under are opposite those in the UK.
"I was home a couple of weeks ago," Parry said. "We were swimming in the middle of the winter in the ocean at home. So I don't know about the guys that come back over here and live over here in summer because it's brutal out here today." -- Helen Ross, 7:07 a.m.
ERNIE TRUE TO FORM EARLY: Ernie Els, winner of the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield, is off to a fine start in the first round.
Through the opening nine holes, the Big Easy was 1 over and just two shots off the lead.
Els always seems to play well at the Open. He has six top-five finishes in his last seven starts, but this week he'll certainly be looking to improve upon the tie for 29th he had at Birkdale in 1998.
Recently reunited with on-again, off-again caddie Ricci Roberts, it looks as if the duo are starting to rekindle the magic they had for so many years -- early on anyway. -- T.J. Auclair, 6:31 a.m.
WELCOME TO THE PARTY: Heath Slocum's trip across the pond paid off on Thursday when he was tabbed to replace Toru Taniguchi in the 137th Open Championship.
|More Open Championship:|
|Pairings and Tee Times|
Taniguchi withdrew due to a back injury. Slocum is playing in his first Open with Richard Finch and John Daly..
New Zealand's Mark Brown is now the first alternate. -- Helen Ross, 6:22 a.m.
Rumors have been running about Southport that George Clooney is renting a house for this week's Open Championship. No sightings yet on the golf course. Our take? Doubtful. Another rumor? Catherine Zeta Jones might drop by. The latter is more likely, seeing as how she's an avid golfer and Welsh. -- Melanie Hauser, 5:46 a.m.
ALL SIX CLEAR: The first batch of drug testing results on the European Tour are in and all six players, including former Open champ Paul Lawrie, tested at the European Open were clear. Officials fast-tracked the results so they would be prepared for any bad news here at the Open Championship.
"There is no possibility of anything going wrong with the Open Championship, which was very important," said George O' Grady of the PGA European Tour. "We strongly believe we are completely clean and we have to be seen to be clean now and prove it." -- Melanie Hauser, 5:46 a.m.
FURYK'S OVER-UNDER: Jim Furyk has never been shy with his opinion. Ask and be prepared.
So what's his take on Great Britain?
"I'd probably have to say that the tea is highly overrated," he said, "and the beer is highly underrated," he said. -- Melanie Hauser, 5:46 a.m.
SCREECHING HALT: The morning commute to Birkdale for the opening round was, pardon the pun, derailed.
The power went out on the Liverpool line for more 2 hours Thursday morning and, with trains running every six minutes, that's a load of people who were stranded. Local officials finally brought in busses, loading them at Formby and dropping fans at Hillside station, just across from Birkdale.
Power was restored around 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. EDT) -- Melanie Hauser, 5:46 a.m.
IAN THE STATUE: Here's a new take leaving your mark.
Tuesday afternoon, fashion plate Ian Poulter spent 3 hours standing in the same place on the putting green. Trying, we might add, nine putters.
And when he left, there were imprints of his feet on the green. Officials called each other over to take a look. -- Melanie Hauser, 5:46 a.m.
LEAVING EARLY: Sandy Lyle, winner of the 1985 Open Championship, withdrew Thursday after nine holes. The 50-year-old, who now plays the Champions Tour, was 11 over at the time.
Lyle, who was playing in his 33rd Open Championship, said he was "out of whack" with his game and he didn't want to do any more damage with the Senior British Open coming up next week at Royal Troon.
"I felt I could do more harm than good," Lyle said. "It could take three weeks to recover from this. I want to make a good start for the seniors so I want to get back up north and get things sorted out." -- Helen Ross (5:11 a.m.)
THE CLARET JUG: The winner of the Open Championship receives the coveted Claret Jug. The Open was first played in 1860, but the Claret Jug was awarded until 1872.
The reason for the delay is because the "Championship Belt" was initially the prize given to the winner. However, Young Tom Morris won the Championship belt outright in 1870 by winning the Open three years in succession.
The Open wasn't played in 1871 and was organized at the last minute in 1872, so the Claret Jug wasn't ready to be presented. Young Tom Morris went on to win his fourth consecutive Open that year and was the first player to have his name inscribed on the Claret Jug.
The Claret Jug was made Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh at a cost of 30 pounds (roughly $60). Its history, however, makes it priceless.
The original Claret Jug has been on permanent display at St. Andrews since 1928 and the current Claret Jug was first awarded to Walter Hagen following his win in 1928 at Royal St. George's.
The winner of the Open gets to take the Claret Jug home for the year, but must return it before the next Open and receives a replica to keep. -- T.J. Auclair (4:01 a.m.)
BIRKDALE BELOVED: Wondering who has won the Open Championship the eight times it's been held at Royal Birkdale? Look no further: -- T.J. Auclair, (3:55 a.m.)
|Open Championships contested at Royal Birkdale|
|1998||Mark O'Meara||USA||280 (E)|
|1991||Ian Baker-Finch||AUS||272 (-8)|
|1983||Tom Watson||USA||275 (-9)|
|1976||Johnny Miller||USA||279 (-9)|
|1971||Lee Trevino||USA||278 (-10)|
|1965||Peter Thomson||AUS||285 (+5)|
|1961||Arnold Palmer||USA||284 (+4)|
|1954||Peter Thomson||AUS||283 (+3)|
WEATHER REPORT: The 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale kicked off early Thursday morning under a thick layer of gray skies with temperatures in the low 50s.
The wind was whipping off the Irish Sea which hugs Birkdale, and the first round of golf's oldest championship is sure to be a battle of the elements.
As the old saying goes on this side of the Atlantic, "Nay wind and nay rain is nay golf" -- that should be nay problem this week. Rain is in the forecast for all four rounds.
Winds gusted to 30 mph in the morning but were expected to moderate to the 15-20 mph range in the afternoon. What was at times heavy rain should give way to clouds and showers in the afternoon but will return by Friday morning when the cycle repeats itself.
The wind on Saturday could be the worst of the week, too, with gusts expected in the 30-35 mph-range. More showers, perhaps heavy at time, are expected, as well. Sunday is the only day that is expected to be dry with some sunny spells.
Temperatures should hover between 53 and 59 degrees.
Players will be bundled up, trying to combat the weather with extra layers of clothing and raingear. The umbrellas may prove to be useless in the howling wind. As if the difficulty of this par-70 links gem wasn't enough to deal with. -- T.J. Auclair and Helen Ross, 3:50 a.m.