With Thursday’s weather reflecting the stereotype of the dour Scottish temperament the field set out with high hopes over a course certain to give up much at the start and get it back on the run home from the short par four 12th.
David Lingmerth, the Swede who won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament in May went out early, got to the turn in 29 and birdied the last for 69. He wouldn’t be the only one to suffer coming in when the run to the 18th tee is all played with the wind coming into and off the left. With trouble down the right it’s not a comfortable run of golf and only the 18th provides any sort of relief.
Dustin Johnson was around in 65 to lead and put himself in a position to earn a reprieve from the mess that was Chambers Bay when he three putted down the hill on the 72nd hole to lose.
Johnson, known as the most gifted physical athlete on the tour, was in Ireland last week playing golf with one of the wealthy cabal of high-flying local amateurs who like to play with the best players in the week leading up to The Open. One came away so impressed with Johnson’s play in Dublin he handed over six figure sum to the bookies with hopes of making it a seven figure sum. Of course it’s silliness but these blokes don’t bet on hunches or maybes.
Johnson has a history of losing these things when the winning chance comes his way. He blew a wild two iron fifty yards over the boundary fence at Royal St Georges’14th hole when he looked like he would win and before that he came to the final hole at a USPGA and grounded his club in a hazard which turned what would have been a winning four into a losing six.
Jason Day is another who has had his chances in the majors but with none of the scarring of Johnson’s peculiar losses. The Australian was out with Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen the champions here in the three Opens since 2000. Geoff Ogilvy, the keenest observer of these things thinks the South African the most beautiful and gifted player in the game. ‘He doesn’t really seem to care about golf that much’ said Ogilvy ‘but he’s ridiculously talented’
Day was around in 66 and Oosthuizen one more but it was Woods who unsurprisingly attracted equal attention with his 76. He started out with a chunked long iron off the tee and then was only one of two (Patrick Reed the other) to find the burn across the front of the opening green. He scrapped out a five, bogeyed the next, missed a short putt at the 5th for a six on a hole most made four and he was done if shooting par was the measure of a reasonable day.
Everyone has an opinion on Woods and his current malaise but only he knows what goes through his head and what his swing feels like but it can’t be too much fun at the moment. Aside from winning five tournaments in 2013 he hasn’t had much fun since his win at Kingston Heath in 2009, the fateful week where it all came crashing down.
Adam Scott, in the Oosthuizen class when it comes to elegance played late in the more difficult part of the day and made much more of the finish than most by doing 3,4,3 from the 16th for 70. Maybe he will get a better go of it in the morning but there is a certainly of heavy rain and he can only hope it stays all day to even things up a little.
There is much golf to play still but with Jordan Spieth in at 67 also those perhaps most likely have all announced their intentions. The game on Friday will be about keeping dry and dealing with some Scottish weather. It might be summer but not as we know it.