It was an interesting day one for my boys at The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
It was nice and calm at my 5.30am arrival at the course and then, post noon, the wind gusted to 20mph. It was a day spent on the range for me with not even a video screen in view as I am in the ‘Tournament Bubble.’
Nothing earth-shattering was produced by my guys on Thursday, but nothing disastrous either. My overall thought for the day is that Royal St George’s is a tough course with a strict par of 70 and an impressive 48 players beating that. It was very cold at times, especially early on and as the sun went down, that perhaps you do not appreciate on TV.
I have to say, congratulations to Louis Oosthuizen on leading the day with a 64, six-under par.
I was with Louis when he won The Open at St Andrews in 2010, in one of my favourite Opens of all time — and remember I have attended every Open since Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1969 with the historic Tony Jacklin win, and I have even played in seven of them, my first in 1976. Louis has always possessed one of the best swings on Tour. He always just needs to be told how good he is and his record speaks for itself: seven top three finishes in majors since 2010 with no wins, only Jordan Spieth has a better record in that time with nine top threes.
Former Dubai resident Justin Parsons now coaches Louis along with Brian Harman, who is tied second, so it has been a special start for Justin.
My best performer on Thursday was Danny Willett, with a six-birdie 67. Danny is getting stronger by the day following his appendicitis operation just a few weeks ago. Brooks Koepka had bogeys on holes 2 and 18 sandwiched in the middle with 3 birdies. He played very well but could not buy a putt. Expect a better round from him on Friday.
Rory McIlroy stuttered early on but looked energised at the end of his round with two birdies in his final five holes in a homeward nine of 34 that sets him up nicely for a decent round. His 10.20am tee time will help him with decent conditions and perhaps little or no breeze. Rory was tired at the end of the day and did not hit any balls after play with the range closing at 8pm.
Rory has not had the best of draws with a first-round tee time at 3.21pm and a mid-to-late morning time for Round 2. Everyone knows an early morning tee time at The Open with little breeze and the greens having been freshly cut is ideal for good scoring.
Victor Perez was a couple under after 12 holes but he struggled on the tough finish over the inward half — he will not be the only one this week. Henrik Stenson was much steadier than in recent weeks in the first round with a level par 70. Matt Fitzpatrick also finished on level par with a birdie on the home hole.
Ian Poulter looked to be continuing his Scottish Open form until a three-bogey back 9 left him disappointed with his day’s work. Padraig Harrington shot a two-over par 72, that contained too many bogeys for the Ryder Cup captain.
Just a word about a couple of other players who come to my Rotherham range, amateur Sam Bairstow shot 75 which could have been much better without doubles on holes 7 and 12 and my flatmate this week, Nicholas Poppleton, who shot the same score as Sam and has earned his lie in for the second round with an 11.15am tee time. It was really dark when the final group, which included Nicholas, finished. I was certain he did not want to return for the final few shots with another early start.
See you all at the end of play on Friday after the cut, which I predict will fall at two-over and may drift to three-over if the wind picks up.