Tom Watson, 59, is gunning for a sixth British Open title. (Franklin/Getty Images)
The Live Report: Round 1
Tiger Woods opened well at Turnberry, but the focus Thursday was on a pair of former British Open champions that went low in the first round.
ROUND 1 COMPLETE (4 p.m.): The first round of the British Open is in the books. It wasn't the kind of round World No. 1 Tiger Woods would have liked -- he said he felt he should have been 1 or 2 under -- but in the end he didn't shoot himself out of the tournament. That's all you really want on the first day of a major, especially one in which you can experience four seasons of weather in four days.
For Miguel Angel Jimenez and Tom Watson, it was exactly the kind of day they wanted. They're at 6 and 5 under, respectively, and while it might be surprising to see them in this position, it's not a total surprise. Jimenez has a strong track record in major championships, including a tie for third at the 2001 Open Championship, and Watson has won this tournament five times in his career. Even if Watson is 59 years old, he's certainly capable of shooting a really good round here, which is exactly what he did. Now the question is can he do it for a second straight day, or for four days.
As for what to watch for on Friday, the wind is supposed to blow and the conditions are expected to be much more difficult. If they are, that will have an effect on the leaderboard.
What will that be? Who knows, but the tougher the tournament the more Tiger is usually a factor. Friday might end up being a pretty good moving day. -- Brian Wacker
O'MEARA AMONG THE CONTENDERS (3:25 p.m.): It was oldies-but-goodies day at Turnberry, and 52-year-old Mark O’Meara added his name to the list when he shot 3 under.
The 1998 Open champion made seven birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey on a spectacular day made for scoring at this scenic links on the western coast of Scotland.
“We definitely caught the course on a very benign day,” O’Meara said. “I’d still say the golf course is very demanding. I drove the ball well today -- kept it in the short grass...and out of the long stuff.
“But I’m sure the wind will come up before the weekend’s through and it will become the Turnberry everyone’s accustomed to.”
If that’s the case, former champs like O’Meara, Tom Watson and Mark Calcavecchia should be pleased. They had already made their presence known in the first round and their course knowledge will only be more beneficial as conditions toughen.
“Experience counts for a lot round these links courses,” O’Meara said. “To me, this is the greatest championship. You can play a lot of shots and it’s very enjoyable.”
The 59-year-old Watson, who counts the 1977 Open at Turnberry among his five titles, opened with a 65 that left him one behind the leader while Calcavecchia, 49, who won in 1989, was tied with O’Meara at 3 under.
For them, age is a number like the ones they put on their scorecards.
“I see what Bernhard Langer’s doing on the Champions Tour,” O’Meara said. “I know the guys are in their 50s but they are still fit and can still play. … The juices get flowing. We love this championship dearly.” -- Helen Ross
PERRY IN GOOD POSITION (3:15 p.m.): For 13 holes, Kenny Perry was right where he’s become accustomed to being -- on the leaderboard -- during the first round of the 138th Open Championship.
The 48-year-old who has two wins on the PGA TOUR in 2009 and was in the mix at Turnberry before he started dropping shots on the back nine. A bogey at the 14th was followed by a double bogey at No. 16 and a bogey at the 17th, but Perry managed to end on a positive note with a birdie on the last.
“There’s no bail out on this course,” Perry said. “Three yards off the fairway is stuff so thick you can’t hit out of it. ... But I played nicely, and I was tickled with my round apart from 16 and 17.
“The speed of my putts was a big off and I struggled getting the ball in the hole today. But 71 is OK. There’s no wind and the course is in great shape. This is as good a day as I’ve seen over here weather-wise.
“There’s some good scores out there but I see tomorrow the weather might come in so that’s when it gets interesting.” -- Helen Ross
STENSON STRUGGLES (3:05 p.m.): Henrik Stenson, who won THE PLAYERS Championship in May, didn’t get off to the start he wanted Thursday. He played his first 12 holes in 3 over but managed to get a couple of strokes back with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17.
“I’m a bit disappointed with the round but I managed to finish with a couple of birdies,” Stenson said. “It’s nice to do it that way, pick up two birdies late coming in and I’m not out of it.”
The Swede doesn’t plan any major changes as he prepares for Friday’s second round.
“With the weather being as calm as it is it might give me a little bit more of a chance to be aggressive,” Stenson said. “But I’m going to stay patient and give myself plenty of chances and hopefully hole a few more putts than I did today.” -- Helen Ross
IPHONE APP (2:50 p.m.): Like the previous two majors this year, the Open Championship has an iPhone application that offers essentials such as leaderboard and course information, as well as links to news stories, video and player bios.
One interesting feature that takes advantage of the iPhone's unique capabilities is the Open's leaderboard. When viewed in the regular handheld position, you get the scores of the top five players, but when you rotate the phone 90 degrees for the wider screen, you get the full leaderboard.
Be sure to check out the PGA Championship's iPhone application next month. And the PGA TOUR will have an iPhone application available when the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup begins in late August. -- Mike McAllister
MORE ON THE MECHANIC (2:25 p.m.): Not only is that tournament-leading 64 the lowest round Miguel Angel Jimenez has ever shot at a major, it's a rare sub-par opening round for the Spaniard at a major.
In his previous 22 majors (going back to the 2002 Open Championship), Jimenez has only broken par just five times in the opening round. Two other times he shot even par. During that 22-major stretch, Jimenez' stroke average was 73.6.
Instead of starting off strong, Jimenez has had to endure scores such as his 77 at Bethpage Black last month, or his 78 at the PGA Championship in 2007, or his 79 at the Masters that same year, or another 79 at the 2005 U.S. Open
But now that he's off to an impressive start, Jimenez must hope he can avoid the kind of second-round slide that he produced last year at windy Royal Birkdale, when he followed an opening round 72 with an 82 that knocked him out of the tournament. -- Mike McAllister
STRICKER WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE (2:10 p.m.): Steve Stricker hoisted the John Deere Classic trophy Sunday evening, did the obligatory interviews and got on a charter plane to Scotland. The victory was his second of the 2009 PGA TOUR season and moved him into second in the FedExCup standings.
“I feel good about my game -- the only uncertainty was the emotional hangover from the victory last week and the jet lag,” Stricker said. “I kissed my wife and kids goodbye and I was on the plane and I was here. It was almost like last week didn’t happen.”
The whirlwind continued on Thursday as Stricker fired a 66 that left him two strokes off the lead held by Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez. Stricker made six birdies, including on his last two holes, and two bogeys.
“It was more like an American style course today with no wind,” Stricker said. “Usually we have real firm conditions and wind and rain but we had none of that today. The course and greens are great and we were able to watch Tom Watson play a li8ttle golf as we were right in front of him.”
The 59-year-old Watson shot 65 and is tied for second with Ben Curtis. -- Helen Ross
NEW LEADER (1:42 p.m.): Tom Watson said earlier that he didn't think 65 would hold up -- which sounds absurd -- and he was right. Miguel Angel Jimenez just capped off a round of 64 with a birdie on the last hole.
That puts the man known as the Mechanic alone in first after a round in which he did plenty of work in -- a front-nine 31, birdies on his final two holes and zero bogeys.
This isn't the first time Jimenez has been in contention at an Open Championship or in a major.
In 2001, Jimenez finished in a tie for third at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and two years ago, he tied for 12th at Carnoustie. Jimenez also has a half-dozen top-10s in other majors, including a tie for second at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. -- Brian Wacker
DON'T SLEEP ON MOLINARI (1:25 p.m.): There's obviously a lot of golf still to be played, but Francesco Molinari, one of our sleeper picks for this week, is making a run up the leaderboard at 4 under through 12 holes.
Molinari, who is the younger brother of former U.S. Amateur champion Edoardo Molinari, birdied the first hole at Turnberry and has since added three more birdies at Nos. 7, 8 and 12. He's also had a good season on the European Tour, finishing in the top 11 six times, not including the Irish Open, where he shot an opening-round 63.
Though this is just Molinari's second Open Championship -- he missed the cut in 2007 -- he has had success in Europe the past few years with the highlight being a win at the 2006 Telecom Italian Open. He also finished second at last year's Mercedes-Benz Championship. -- Brian Wacker
TWEET OF THE DAY (1 p.m.): Stewart Cink, who is one shot off the lead after an opening-round 66 and who is also known as the PGA TOUR's resident meteorologist (not to mention unofficial king of Twitter) provided the following: "Stimp at T'berry around 10.5, closest hole to Ailsa Craig #4; it's 12 miles out in the Firth of Clyde." -- Brian Wacker
SIR NICK, ETC. (12:10 p.m.): Knighthood is taken quite seriously, or at least officially, at the British Open with the leaderboard reading "Sir Nick Faldo."
Faldo, who was knighted last month, only wishes his play was so royal today. The three-time British Open champion, who twice won at Muirfield, shot an opening-round 78 today that leaves him near the bottom of the leaderboard. He's not the only former British Open champion to be struggling, however.
Todd Hamilton, who won at Royal Troon in 2004, is 7 over through his first 13 holes, while two-time winner Greg Norman is in with a 77. Last but not least, Sandy Lyle, who won at Royal St. George's in 1985 and who had some interesting comments about Colin Montgomerie earlier in the week, shot 75.
On the other end of that is of course is Tom Watson, a five-time British Open champion and the current co-leader here. Right there with him is 2003 winner Ben Curtis, who just capped off a 5-under 65 of his own to tie Watson for the lead. -- Brian Wacker
UPDATE FROM MILWAUKEE (11:55 a.m.): A few thousand miles and more than a few time zones away from the British Open, the first round of the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee is well under way.
Tag Ridings is in the lead for the moment at 4 under with a few holes left in his opening round, while four others, including Frank Lickliter, are one shot back.
No matter what happens there, we'll have a new champion since Richard S. Johnson isn't there to defend -- he qualified for the British Open. Johnson is even through his first six holes at Turnberry. Click here to follow the action live in Milwaukee. -- Brian Wacker
INSIDE THE NUMBERS (11:15 a.m.): Tom Watson's first-round 65 ties for the lowest first-round score in any of the 128 majors that he has played in his illustrious career.
The 59-year-old Watson has now posted a first-round 65 in a major twice in his career, both times coming after he turned 50. Along with Thursday's 65, Watson shot 65 in the opening round of the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields.
In addition, of the 443 rounds in major competition that Watson has played in his lifetime, he has now shot 65 eight times (his lowest round in a major is a 64 in the 1980 British Open at Muirfield). Four of those eight 65s have come at Turnberry. -- Mike McAllister
SAVING GRACE (11 a.m.): Have you ever heard of Branden Grace? If not, you're probably not alone.
However, based on the way he played in the first round of the Open Championship, you might be learning a lot more about him in the days to come.
Grace, a 21-year-old from South Africa, eagled the par-5 17th hole with a long putt to get to 3 under for the day and finish with a 67, just two shots off the lead.
Grace's best career finish was a tie for second at the Africa Open, where he finished one shot behind Retief Goosen. -- T.J. Auclair
MORE TIGER (10:50 a.m.): Thursday marked the 27th time that Tiger Woods has shot over par in the opening round of a major championship. Of those 27, he's only gone on to win three times -- 2008 at the U.S. Open, 2007 at the PGA Championship and 2006 at the Masters. -- Helen Ross
TIDBITS FROM TIGER (10:35 a.m.): Tiger Woods' 1-over 71 today was his worst opening round in a British Open since a 73 at the 2003 Open at Royal St. George's. Only three other times in his career has Woods shot above 70 in the first round -- he had a 71 in the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, a 74 in 1999 at Carnoustie and a 72 in 1997, his first year on the PGA TOUR, at Royal Troon.
According to Woods, though, he should have been "1 or 2 under" today. That's the mindset you have, though, when you're the No. 1 player in the world and you're hitting irons to spots on the golf course that you'd normally be hitting woods into.
"I certainly made some mistakes out there," Woods said. "You've gotta be patient. This course, you can shoot a good round today, the wind is down and most of the pins are accessible."
Below is a look at Woods' other opening rounds at the British Open. -- Brian Wacker
|Tiger Woods: Opening rounds at the British Open
||Royal St. George's
||Royal Lytham & St. Annes
MCILROY MAKING A MOVE (10:15 a.m.): In terms of an Open Championship being a home game for Rory McIlroy, this week at Turnberry is likely as close as he'll get.
Northern Ireland is just 30 miles west of Turnberry over the Irish Sea. Because of that, McIlroy is getting plenty of support. Seven holes into his first Open Championship as a professional, McIlroy is 1 under and three shots off the lead.
After a birdie on the second hole, McIlroy has rolled off four consecutive pars. -- T.J. Auclair
KIM SMARTING (10:05 a.m.): There's been much written and said about Anthony Kim's re-dedication to practice, eating better and the work he's put in with his strength and conditioning coach, but right now it appears Kim is battling some neck and shoulder problems.
Kim is also trying to recover from one very bad hole this morning -- he made a 9 on the par-4 second. Kim did rebound with a birdie on the par-4 fifth, but as it stands right now, he is 4 over through his first six holes. This is, of course, only Kim's second British Open -- he finished in a tie for seventh last year at Royal Birkdale -- but his physical ailments may be of just as much concern. Kim has had a litany of injuries -- neck, shoulder, thumb, etc. -- throughout his young career, but just recently said he finally felt healthy again. Apparently that was short lived. Kim was just laying down and having it worked on. Stay tuned. -- Brian Wacker
WATSON: COURSE 'DEFENSELESS' (9:38 a.m.) -- No one knows links golf better than Tom Watson. And the five-time Open winner proved it once again at Turnberry when the 59-year-old fired a bogey-free 65 that gave him sole possession of the lead in the 138th renewal of golf’s oldest championship.
“She was defenseless today,” Watson said. “Obviously the golf course played with no wind, and it was an easy test, if you have an easy test in an Open Championship.
“The wind is supposed to blow a little bit more tomorrow and blow a little bit on Saturday and stronger on Sunday, so she's going to bare her teeth a little bit."
Watson, who won his second Open in 1977 at Turnberry in what became known as the Duel in the Sun with Jack Nicklaus, got untracked with birdies on two of his first two holes. He was playing with Sergio Garcia and 16-year-old amateur Matteo Manassero, neither of whom were born when that memorable battle was contested.
Wearing a black-and-white argyle sweater, Watson started his day with a 9-iron to 8 feet at the first hole. He missed a 12-footer for another birdie at No. 2 but was able to negotiate the third from 20 feet to vault onto the leaderboard.
“I said, well, this is just a continuation of the feeling I was having in the practice round. I'm hitting the ball right at the hole and I'm making a few putts,” Watson said. “With the wind down today, let's take advantage of the old girl and get off to a running start, which I did.” -- Helen Ross
LATE BOGEYS FOR TIGER (9:30 a.m.) -- Tiger Woods' bid for a fourth Open Championship title took a hit on Thursday when he struggled to a 1 over 71.
Woods was 1 under with four holes to play, but he finished bogey-bogey-par-par.
WILD WEEK FOR SENDEN (9:17 a.m.) -- John Senden left the rain-plagued John Deere Classic on Sunday morning and flew home to Dallas.
He was the fourth alternate for the 138th Open Championship but decided not to stay in Illinois and hop on the charter that night because he didn’t have much hope of getting in the field. Senden was wrong, though.
When he got home, he discovered he had moved up to No. 1. So Senden hopped a plane Monday night and arrived at Turnberry the following morning to find that Jeev Milkha Singh had withdrawn – paving the way for the Aussie to play in his ninth major championship.
“I thought, not really much chance of getting in as fourth,” Senden explained. “You can, but obviously a lot better chance at first. My thought (was) that I wanted to travel over here because first reserve … I would have hated to be at home, being first reserve and knowing that someone else got in. But it was worth the trip.”
Indeed. Senden went out and fired a bogey-free 66 Thursday that has him one stroke off the early lead held by Tom Watson and Stewart Cink. The Aussie shot a stellar 31 on the final nine holes.
Ironically, this is the second time that Senden was a late addition to the Open Championship field.
“When I won the John Deere (Classic) in 2006 I was the last man in then,” Senden said. “So now I'm the last man in this week, as well. So there's something about that.” -- Helen Ross
RYO LIVES UP TO THE HYPE (9:07 a.m.) -- Japanese teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa wasn't bothered by his date with Tiger Woods on Thursday. In a situation that would have given him the perfect excuse to shoot 80 -- cameras, huge galleries, etc. -- the 17-year-old is 2 under.
This is Ishikawa's second start in a major championship. He debuted at the Masters in April to great fanfare, but a 77-73 left him well outside the cut line. Ishikawa has made just one cut in four PGA TOUR starts this year. He's broken 70 just once in 10 tries.
ROUGH DAY FOR NORMAN (8:50 a.m.) -- Tom Watson's opening 65 is the second year in a row that a former British Open champion stole the spotlight on Day 1. Last year at Royal Birkdale, it was Greg Norman, but the 54-year-old struggled at Turnberry on Thursday.
Norman was headed for an 80 on Thursday before he birdied his final two holes -- his only two birdies of the day.
MORE ON STRICKER, WATSON (8:41 a.m.) -- Stricker is also looking to make a little history. Since 1949, only six players have won a PGA TOUR event the week before a major, most recent – 2007, Tiger Woods (World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational before PGA Championship).
Dating to 1934, Lee Trevino is the only player to win a TOUR event the week preceding The Open Championship (1971 Canadian Open before The Open Championship). Watson won The Open Championship at Turnberry in 1977. If Watson were to go on and win, he would tie Harry Vardon's record of six Open titles. -- Mark Williams
NO SLIPPAGE FOR STRICKER (8:30 a.m.) -- Steve Stricker, winner of last week's John Deere Classic, is in with a 66 that would have been even better without back-to-back bogeys around the turn.
One can't blame Stricker. The eighth, ninth and tenth holes at Turnberry are brutal par-4s -- the shortest is the 449-yard ninth.
Keep an eye on Stricker. He's driving the ball better than any point in his career, and his exceptional wedge game will serve him well this week.
'89 CHAMP ALSO IN HUNT (8:04 a.m.) -- Mark Calcavecchia was just where he wanted to be. He was in the lead-off group Thursday for the first round of the 138th Open Championship, playing with Paul Broadhurst and Michael Campbell.
Calcavecchia, a notoriously fast player, and his partners completed their rounds in 4 hours and five minutes. At one point he remembers looking back and the next group was a distant three holes behind.
“We weren't in a hurry, obviously,” Calcavecchia said. “We had the whole course to ourselves and we just played our own games, our own speed in four hours and five minutes. It kind of makes you wonder sometimes how it can take five hours plus for three professionals to play golf. It's frightening, really.”
Calcavecchia, who won the 1989 Open at Royal Troon, was the low man in the group with a 67 while Broadhurst shot 70 and Campbell a 78. The American had four birdies and one bogey while finding the “hay” just once and only one bunker, as well.
He set the tone for his round early when he rolled in a 30-footer for birdie at the second hole. Calcavecchia found a fairway bunker at the par-5 seventh hole and had to “hack out,” he said, but then hit another 6-iron to eight inches for a second birdie.
“(I) was able to make that one,” the 49-year-old Calcavecchia said with a smile. “Sometimes it's in doubt.”
A 7-iron at the 11th hole produced a 6-footer for birdie. Finally, a hybrid from 246 yards at the 17th hole – Calcavecchia said he's been watching the Champions Tour and “figured I’d better learn to hit them" – left him with a 15-footer for eagle that he two-putted.
“It was fun,” Calcavecchia said. “The weather was perfect, two great guys to play golf with in Michael Campbell and Paul Broadhurst. It was very enjoyable today.” -- Helen Ross
WATSON IN WITH A 65 (7:58 a.m.) -- Tom Watson, who won here in 1977, is in with a bogey-free 5-under 65 that has him in the lead, although young Englishman David Howell is 4 under and still on the course. Stewart Cink is also 4 under.
WEATHER OK ... FOR NOW (7:45 a.m.) --
It’s hard to figure out the weather here. It’s relatively cloudy, but the rain seems to be staying away – although Ian Poulter tweeted that it had been pouring at his house just five miles away from the course.
According to the weather service used by the Royal & Ancient, there is a 30 percent chance of rain by midday. The winds will be out of the southwest at 5 to 10 mph with gusts to 15.
A similar day appears to be on tap for Friday – although the winds with be northwesterly with gusts of 20-25 mph. The best chance for any serious rain appears to be Sunday. -- Helen Ross