British Open 2016: What Was the Second-Biggest Story at Troon?

July 14, 2016

Each night during the British Open, writers, producers and editors from the Sports Illustrated Golf Group give their opinions on the hot topic of the day at Royal Troon. Agree with our takes? Disagree? Leave your answers in the comments section below or tweet us at @golf_com.

1. We know Phil’s 63 was the biggest surprise at Troon on Thursday. What was the second-biggest surprise of the day?

Alan Bastable, executive editor, The weather. It’s been a wretched summer in Troon — wet, dreary, damp. But on a glorious Thursday, the place looked like heaven on turf: big blue skies, sun-splashed fairways, just a wisp of a breeze. And birdies galore. That all ends Friday, thank god. Bring on the rain and wind and grousing. Bring on the carnage. 

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The biggest surprise was Phil’s 63. His second-biggest surprise was his scores on the final five holes: 2, 4, 4, 2, 4. He went out in 32 and came home in 31. Phil Mickelson is one of the greatest talents ever to play the game, but he has, by his own admission, struggled with concentration for whole stretches of rounds. In your mid-40s, concentration in golf becomes only more difficult. The scores alone show that there was not a moment of let-up, physical or mental, in that round. The birdie putt on 18 for 62 was perfect – not a bit of waver in that stroke. The most welcome surprise of the day was his reaction to it. The utter joy he had for being so close, and his actual need to share that joy with his playing partners, their caddies and the fans. He had the fans involved all the way around, just as he did when he won at Muirfield. Hogan would not have responded to that missed putt that way. Neither would have Tiger. So many things in this modern sporting universe are scripted. It is beyond boring. That round, and Phil’s reaction to it, is why so many of us love sorts in general and Phil in particular. Never again may any of us say, “How did that not go in?” Phil retired that category with his 62nd shot of the day.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: JDay sitting in 94th place. He seems to have a touch of stage fright when it comes to the majors this year. 

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine: The biggest surprise is not that roommates Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker are eating brisket tacos prepared by their house chef for the week, or that they’re busting out their gloves and playing backyard baseball for hours on the day before the Open’s first round. The biggest surprise is they’re watching “Tommy Boy,” the Chris Farley/David Spade flick that came out in 1995, when Fowler, Spieth and Thomas were still in diapers. Apparently the classics stand the test of time.

Josh Sens, contributor, GOLF Magazine: Jason Day not taking better advantage of the nice, um, day.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The number of 10-, 15- and 20-foot birdie putts that were holed. I know these greens are flatter than a pancake, but that was ridiculous. And how many shots were holed from off the green? 

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The biggest surprise was that the USGA wasn’t somehow able to figure out a way to slap Phil with a two-shot penalty and ruin a great opening round of the Open.

Marika Washchyshyn, multimedia producer, It’s a tie for me. 1) The weather. Come on, that’s not what Scotland is supposed to look like! 2) John Daly’s pineapple pants. (Ok, ok…that’s not really a surprise, albeit it is a pleasant one.)

Sean Steinemann, social media editor, Has to be Phachara Khongwatmai’s round of even-par 71. Why is an even-par round surprising on day when Lefty went so low? Because Khongwatmai is 17 and playing in his first major championship.