Day one of the Open Championship has seen a few surprises so far. After finishing hours behind most players, the unranked Shiv Kapur of India is within striking distance of leading the board. The 31-year-old pro from New Delhi has never made the cut at a Major but through day one, he is three under par. At the other end of the spectrum, it may actually no longer be surprising that Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is tied for 141st place, shooting eight over par for a 79.
The early morning golfers at Muirfield had better playing conditions, but as the day goes on and the heat continues to rise, the field has been getting dryer and harder. The greens are less forgiving and the sand traps are sandier than usual. Among those in the afternoon wave — Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Francesco Molinari — each is well within reach of the leading position.
The U.S.’s Zach Johnson is the current overall leader, having shot five under par for a 66. But in 2013, Justin Rose and Adam Scott both won their grand slam title without winning any single day. Ending the day at two under is a good spot for Woods; it puts him in position for consistency through the weekend and his expected run to his first major title in over five years. Woods shot three under on the back nine, which was far better than any other player.
The United States is well represented at the top of the leaderboard. Third-ranked Brandt Snedeker shot a 68, three under par. Phil Mickelson will enter day two at two under par and will have a chance to win his first major championship since the Masters in 2010. And Dustin Johnson shot three under and has a chance to move up from his #21 rank on the 2013 money list. Mark O’Meara finished four under par, Tom Lehman finished three under, Todd Hamilton and Jordan Spieth both finished two under. Bubba Watson and Ken Duke both finished one under par. In total, the U.S. has 11 golfers under par. (No other country has more than three.)
Spain had three impressive performances in day one, Rafael Cabrera-Bello shot four under par and is tied for second place. Miguel Jiménez finished three under and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño finished one under for the day.
Last years winner and the last golfer to win the Open Championship at Muirfield, Ernie Els, had a rough round one finishing three over par at 74. He will have to have an impressive rounds two, three and four to overcome this performance.
The course will likely play different on day two; the grounds crew will likely water it overnight or forgo mowing the grass and decide to just roll it. Either way, there will be a major adjustment for players on Friday. That might not work well for some of the surprising leaders who quickly grew comfortable with the fast course.
The attention for day two will be on Tiger Woods. His elbow issue going into the tournament didn’t seem to bother him, which by staying out of the rough for most of the day certainly helped, so he seems healthy enough to finish strong. Woods last won the Claret Jug in 2006, but his impressive first round today improves his chances of ending his losing streak considerably.