Thursday's Birdies and Bogeys
July 15, 2015
Birdie: Dustin Johnson
There's always a question about how a player will recover from a crushing defeat, but Johnson has a gift for not overcomplicating the game. After three-putting at Chambers Bay to lose to Jordan Spieth by one, Johnson said there would be no lingering effects at St. Andrews, and it's easy to see why he'd warm to the place. Using his prodigious length to power past most of the Old Course's trouble, Johnson averaged 322 yards off the tee to shoot a seven-under 65 and perhaps set up another run at his first major. -- Sam Weinman
Birdie: Jordan Spieth
Is this to say if Spieth had come to St. Andrews earlier for practice he'd have scored lower? Maybe. But probably not. In fact, if anything, Spieth's opening 67 was proof that good form trumps all. Although he forfeited an earlier scouting mission in order to play, and win, the John Deere Classic, Spieth is riding such a wave of confidence he could adjust to whatever golf course is in front of him. Although trailing Dustin Johnson by two shots, the guy who won the year's first two majors was perfectly content with his position, and he's still got three rounds to make himself more at home. -- S.W.
Bogey: Tiger Woods
On Wednesday, crowds at St. Andrews were treated to a final Open sendoff to Arnold Palmer. On Thursday, they watched another one of the game's all-time great players look more like a ceremonial golfer. Woods chunked an iron off the first tee then hit his approach fat and into the Swilcan Burn. He badly mis-hit a 9-iron on No. 2 and came up 30 yards short -- a surprise considering his sharp iron play in his last start. While most of the field was tearing up the front nine in benign conditions, the two-time winner at the Old Course was five over through 10 holes and made his lone birdie of the day on No. 14. Woods has been stuck on major No. 14 for more than seven years, and it doesn't appear that will change this week. -- Alex Myers
Birdie: Jordan Niebrugge
The summer of 2015 has already been one to remember for Jordan Niebrugge. Then the 21-year-old made history, shooting the lowest score ever by an amateur at St. Andrews in an Open Championship on Thursday, a dazzling 67 that matched the little-more-famous Jordan -- who is only eight days older than Niebrugge. The rising senior at Oklahoma State has spent the last couple of months in the U.K., playing in a couple amateur of events before medaling in a qualifier for St. Andrews. The 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links champ played in the 2014 Masters. But the seven-birdie showing at the Old Course by Niebrugge will be the highlight for when he's talking to his buddies at OSU about his summer in a few months. -- Stephen Hennessey
Birdie: The front 9
An easterly wind meant the outward nine at St. Andrews played downwind on Thursday and boy did players take advantage of it. The first group of the day didn't make a bogey on the front nine, and there were five 31s posted and a course-record tying 29 by David Lingmerth. Overall, the front nine played more than a stroke and a half under par. Of course, with the way the Old Course is routed ...
Bogey: The back 9
The field had a much tougher time into the wind on the inward nine -- which played more than three shots harder -- and you can look no further than Lingmerth. After making the turn at seven under, Lingmerth bogeyed 11, 14 and 15, before adding a double bogey on the Road Hole on his way to a back-nine 40. So we should expect the same tomorrow, right? Wrong. The wind is expected to come from the opposite direction on Day 2 -- and pick up considerably. That means we shouldn't expect as many low scores on either nine. -- A.M.
Birdie: Paul Lawrie
Even though Paul Lawrie hasn't contended in anything significant this year, it doesn't feel like a surprise to see his name among the early leaders at St. Andrews after an opening six-under 66. It's been a struggle for the Scot, with just one top 20 in 10 starts in 2015. But that came last week at the Scottish Open, so perhaps he's found his game at just the right time. -- S.H.
Birdie: Zach Johnson’s round
Spieth is not the only one to carry over his John Deere success to St. Andrews. Coming off a third-place finish last week, Johnson fired a six-under 66 on Thursday. Moreover, Johnson's performance came in the afternoon, where the scoring was higher thanks to winds sweeping the grounds. The 2007 Masters winner's game doesn't seem conducive to St. Andrews, as the links has historically been controlled by long bombers. Johnson's past appearances at the Old Course -- failing to make the weekend in 2005 and limping to a T-76 finish in 2010 -- seem to second this sentiment. Yet Johnson has enjoyed recent strong showings at the Open, with a T-9 in 2012 and T6 in 2013, and his iron and short-game play will keep him competitive throughout the weekend. -- Joel Beall
Bogey: Zach Johnson's wardrobe
Did he just get done skiing, or is he about to rob a bank? Maybe he's workshopping his homemade Ant-Man Halloween costume? He's American, right? Usually only the Swedes can pull off this look. -- J.B.
Birdie: Retief Goosen
Grey Goose for everyone! The South African has two U.S. Open titles on his mantle, but he's been out in the proverbial golf wilderness the past few years, failing to find the winner's circle on tour since 2009. But thanks to an opening round of 66, Goosen's passed St. Andrews' first test with flying colors. Don't misconstrue this as an aberration. In previous Open ventures at the Old Course, Goosen finished sixth in 2010 and tied for fifth in 2005. At 46, Goose has a chance to be the oldest recipient of the claret jug, an honor held by Old Tom Morris. -- J.B.
Bogey: The Road Hole
Or should we say, literally a bogey: players averaged over 4.8 strokes on the infamous 17th, highlighted (lowlighted?) by Mark Calcavecchia's nine on the hole. The course has the reputation as the hardest hole in the world, and the 2015 Open is adding to that aura. -- J.B.
Birdie: Phil Mickelson
At first glance, Mickelson's two-under 70 won't pop off the paper. However, in the context of the macabre afternoon elements, Phil's score is as strong as one could hope. Given the formidable currents expected to hit St. Andrews late tomorrow, Mickelson and his morning tee time are in sound position heading into the second round. -- J.B.