Zach Johnson holds a one-shot lead heading into the second round of the 142nd Open Championship after an opening day which saw several players struggle on the fiery Muirfield course. The American, who won the Masters in 2007, finished his round on five under, with 1998 Open champion Mark O’Meara and Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello a shot back. Tom Lehman, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker, lie alongside Miguel Angel Jiminez and surprise story Shiv Kapur lie on three under.
Tiger Woods will also be happy as he positioned himself nicely with a two under round of 69 in what he admitted was increasingly challenging conditions. "It was fine in the morning but by the time we got through there in the afternoon, it just continued to dry out,” Woods told ESPN.
Phil Mickelson, who matched Woods’s score took it a step further and criticized the course’s setup. “The organizers should let go of their ego and set the course up the way the best players can win,” he said, according to the Open website.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy had no-one to blame but himself, though, after shooting an opening 79 to leave him with a real challenge to make the cut on Friday. The Northern Irishman has struggled throughout the year and signaled little optimism after walking off the course.
“I made stupid mental errors,” he conceded. “I made sloppy bogeys on four and five. I let shots get away from me -- too many loose shots. I missed the ball in wrong places. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there a bit unconscious. I’ve got to try to think a bit more. I’m trying to concentrate. I can’t really fathom it. It’s so brain dead.”
But it was the Scottish course itself that took much of the headlines and in particular the choice of pin positions on greens that carried a lightning pace that resembled those so often seen in a U.S. Open. Englishman Ian Poulter was particularly critical saying that the eighth hole was a “joke” and that the 18th needed a “windmill and a clown face.”
The chief executive of the organizers, the Royal and Ancient, explained that the player’s views would be taken on board ahead of the second round, but defended the fairness of the course. “We’re conscious of player comments and have taken note as we plan how to set up the greens tomorrow,” Peter Dawson said. “I do understand some players get frustrated. Ian Poulter bogeyed four of the last five holes -- he was bound to get frustrated. It’s a very testing, tough Open Championship. It’s far from unplayable.”
Second round notable tee times (ET):
4 a.m. The heavyweight group of Lee Westwood (+1), Sergio Garcia (+4) and Charl Schwartzel (+1) will be looking to improve on their opening rounds.
4.11 a.m. Masters champion Adam Scott (par) tees-off with former world No. 1 Luke Donald and American Matt Kuchar.
4.44 a.m. Tiger Woods (-2) will look to keep himself firmly in contention heading to the weekend, alongside former US Open winner Graeme McDowell (+4).
9.12 a.m. Last year’s winner Ernie Els (+3) goes off with US Open champion Justin Rose (+4) and the in-contention Brandt Snedeker (-3).
9.45 a.m. Phil Mickelson (-2) begins with Rory McIlroy (+8) and Hideki Matsuyama (par).
10.07 a.m. Leader Zach Johnson will have to navigate what may prove to be trickier afternoon conditions alongside Thomas Bjorn (+2) and Shingo Katayama (+2).
Where to watch: Coverage of the second round of the Open Championship will get underway at 4 a.m. on ESPN, with a live stream available from 2.30 a.m. on ESPN3.