Australians shine as Birkdale takes toll
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2008 British Open | Round One | 18 Jul 2008
In one of the most demanding days in the history of Open Championship golf, only three players broke par over the Royal Birkdale layout on day one of the 137th Open Championship.
Those out in the morning half of the field were forced to battle the worst of the conditions with drenching rain and winds reaching speeds of 30 mph and beyond. There were some horror stories, several of which came from players expected to do well this week, the most noticeable was Phil Mickelson’s round of 79, and 80 from Ernie Els and Vijay Singh.
Retief Goosen and Mike Weir survived the early carnage the best when they produced remarkable rounds of one over par 71 but as the morning wore on it became evident that those in the afternoon were going to get a break with the weather. Not that it was pleasant by any stretch of the imagination but that the leading six players at the end of day one played in the afternoon group, bears testimony to what the morning field faced.
Rocco Mediate continued on where he left off in his last major championship by recovering from a horror first few holes to finish with a back nine of 33 and be at 1 under par. Mediate was three over through his first five holes but from there he seldom put a foot wrong. Birdies at the last two holes saw him with a share of the first round lead.
Mediate’s recovery from a slow start was impressive but so too was that of Australian Robert Allenby.
The Victorian turned in three over 37 and was back in 32. Like Mediate, Allenby was able to birdie the final two holes to turn a good round into something very good and join the American, who had finished nearly an hour earlier, in the lead.
In 15 starts Allenby has never fared any better than 10th at this Championship but he has created an opportunity to do just that with his impressive late rally today.
Last week’s Scottish Open champion, Graeme McDowell, played two groups behind Mediate and became the second player in to the clubhouse on one under 69 when, like his fellow leaders, he birdied the final two holes.
McDowell is clearly in the best form of his life with two European Tour victories this season and he has made a great start in an attempt to become the first player to win at Loch Lomond and follow it up with a win at the Open.
Greg Norman defied logic to a large extent by producing a rock solid two birdie, two bogey round of even par 70. Just three weeks after being married in the Caribbean, Norman was back playing his favourite tournament and gave us all a reminder of what an incredible athlete he still is. Given the circumstances and his lack of recent tournament play, Norman may well consider this one of his best ever rounds.
Adam Scott has generally failed to flatter at this level, but his opening round of even par 70 has shed a new light on his chances this week. It might have been much better had he not dropped shots at the final two holes which were statistically amongst the easiest of the day.
Pre-tournament favourite Sergio Garcia did well with his round of 72 to be three off the lead. His start wasn’t all that encouraging in the easier part of the day but a birdie at the 15th has him well placed. Padraig Harrington had 74 and Lee Westwood 75 and while disappointing starts they are certainly not out the tournament.
As mentioned earlier the Australians fared well with Allenby, Norman and Scott all in the mix early in the tournament. Appleby’s 72 was more than acceptable, Brendan Jones suffered the worst of the conditions but despite a last hole bogey had 74, as did Nick O’Hern who also played early.
The biggest surprise amongst the Australians, other than the brilliance of Norman, was perhaps the round of 77 by Geoff Ogilvy. While he has given the leaders a huge start, things could change dramatically on day two.
Unfortunately the weather appears as if it will be unkind again for round two with similar, although perhaps not quite as bad, conditions expected.