It’s the most eagerly-anticipated major in recent memory – perhaps ever? – so of course the 150th playing of The Open was going to be packed with talking points. Here’s the lowdown from the opening day at St Andrews…
In-form Cam Young is our overnight leader after the American came firing out the block.
At one point we were all fully expecting him to smash the current major championship record score of 62 – set by Branden Grace at this very tournament in 2017 – when he raced to 7-under through 12…
Alas, the birdies dried up as he entered the trickiest part of the course, and a three at the drivable 18th was the only other gain as he was forced to – ahem – settle for an 8-under 64.
Poulter being Poulter
There was a smattering of boos on the first tee for LIV Golf man Ian Poulter, but he didn’t hear them. (At least he says he didn’t.)
But after his snap-hook off the first tee…
…he started to enjoy himself.
The former Ryder Cup star finished carded a 3-under 69 to open what he says may be his last Open at St Andrews.
Tiger Woods’ opening round didn’t go exactly to plan – and it couldn’t have started any worse when he put his second shot in the burn that flashes across the first hole.
Still, at least it ignited some debate...
Rory’s ancient encounter
Not even a centuries-old stone could slow Rory McIlroy down as the Northern Irishman carded a 66 to post yet another sensational opening round at a major in 2022.
Playing the par-5 5th, McIlroy did the improbable when his tee shot hit a 800-year-old stone which marks the original perimeter of the Old Course…
“I said to [my caddie] Harry, some poor guy is going to have his ball end up right behind that today,” McIlroy said. “It’s right in the firing range, and I don’t think you get a drop. It’s sort of play it like it lies. You’ll have to check with a rules official.”
Well Rory, we checked things over, and as it turns out, the Old Course’s rules say march stones are immovable obstructions. As per rule 16.1, a player would gain relief if the stone physically interferes with their stance or swing, but not if the stone merely distracts the player.
Avoiding any drama, and despite the ancient interference, McIlroy still launched his drive 307 yards and ended up making birdie. As you do.
Speaking of which, golf course architect and NCG columnist Sam Cooper talked us through how to play the Old Course’s remarkable 14th hole, Long, which stretches to 615 yards off the championship tees.
For Rory? A driver and a wedge. “It’s so fast and firm,” he said afterwards. Evidently.
Bucket-hat Brown shines bright
Time for Amateur Watch, and if you’re going to wear a camo bucket-hat at the Home of Golf, you better have the game to match.
And boy did Barclay Brown have that! The 21-year-old from Sheffield made a dream start to his first ever major as he carded a nerveless 4-under 68 to become the surprise story of the day.
Incidentally, amateurs shone last time The Open was at St Andrews, and Brown will be hoping emulate the likes of Paul Dunne and fellow Yorkshireman Matt Fitzpatrick – who plays out of the same club – as he vies for the Silver Medal.
Road Hole derails the Big Easy
It was phenomenal opening day for Ernie Els as he rolled back the years with form reminiscent of that which saw him capture two Claret Jugs. But the Big Easy will be kicking himself after a horrendous tee shot on 17 saw the infamous Road Hole claim its latest victim.
Having already bogeyed the par-4 16th, Els went way, way right on the 17th, spraying it out of bounds to gift one lucky straggler a souvenir and earn the South African a double-bogey.
Xander the road runner
If Els was brought to his knees by the Road Hole on day one, Xander Schauffele then showed us exactly how it’s done with some Seve-esque creativity from the path on the 17.
The man in form just loves links golf.
Noren’s questionable call backfires
Alex Noren arrived at St Andrews as first alternate for the final major of the year, and despite having played a practice round on Tuesday, later made the brash decision to sack off withdrawal hopes and fly to America for the PGA Barracuda. And you can guess what happened next.
Justin Rose was forced to withdraw from injury, and with Noren out of the picture, Rikuya Hoshino got the call-up instead to play his maiden Open. Let’s hope the Barracuda is worth it, Mr Noren…
Par of the year?
Not content with outfit of the day – yes that’s a jumper with ‘PGA Tour’ plastered all over it – Si Woo Kim then produced the shot of the day with this outrageous par save from the bunker on 17.
The first was a disaster, but what about the follow up…
The Cold War rages on
Another day, another jibe within the ongoing battle between LIV Golf and the PGA and DP World Tour. And it’s back to Lee Westwood to take the stand…
The R&A has announced details of how you can get tickets for the historic 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2023. Click here to find out more.