With Phil Mickelson just missing out on history, Americans littering the leaderboard and much more, here are five things we learned from the 145th British Open at Royal Troon on Day 1:
1. The littlest hole at Troon can body-slam the biggest hitters.
The 123-yard “Postage Stamp” 8th licked Bubba Watson, who had birdied five of his first six holes and was leading when he dumped his tee shot into the dreaded Coffin Bunker, his ball plugging up against the left lip. His second shot soared over the green and down an embankment. He stubbed his chip. He finally reached the putting surface with his fourth shot, and two-putted for his triple-bogey 6.
2. The Railway is a great place for a train wreck.
That would be the 482-yard, par-4 11th hole, where Kristoffer Broberg (77), David Duval (82) and Steven Bowditch (79) all made 9s. The hole was the hardest on the course with a 4.705 stroke average, and generally reminded viewers of 1962, when Jack Nicklaus made a 10 on it and Arnold Palmer called 11, “the most dangerous hole I have ever seen.” Justin Thomas (67) was going so bad there he was hoping to get away with making 5. He holed out from the greenside bunker for a par.
3. America’s Ryder Cup chances looked pretty good.
When the Stars & Stripes waved proudly next to eight of the first 11 men on the board, you know things are going well. The most surprising of these names, and arguably the one that made U.S. Ryder captain Davis Love III the happiest, was Phil Mickelson’s old partner Keegan Bradley, who had dropped off the map but is tied for fourth after a 67.
4. Playing beach baseball and eating brisket tacos prepared by the house chef and watching Tommy Boy together at night is apparently not a bad way to prepare for the Open.
Defending champion Zach Johnson (67), Justin Thomas (67), Rickie Fowler (69), Jordan Spieth (71), Jason Dufner (71) and Jimmy Walker (72), who are roommates for the week, shot a cumulative nine under par Thursday.
Even at 46, even coming into this Open with a winless streak of exactly three years. Lefty looked to be in total command on Thursday, and he has a history of hanging around the lead at Troon, where he finished third in 2004. It’s not often a guy beats the field by three.