The 2014 Open Championship began Thursday at Royal Liverpool. For all the understandable trepidation about the weather, the day turned out to be glorious. The wind was a modest factor in shot selections and the sun never stopped shining. Friday, however, is another day with an unsurprising day of rain showers and 10 to 20 mph winds. It’s the Open after all. And so everybody was trying to make hay while the sun shined.
Rory McIlroy was the best at it, posting a 6-under 66 for a 1-shot lead over Matteo Manassero. Most of the conversation in the media room was about a recent tendency to botch up his Friday rounds; Freaky Friday they were calling it:
“Whenever I go out and play on Thursdays there’s not many expectations. You’re going out there and you’re trying to find a rhythm, and you’re just trying to play your way into the round.”
“When you go back out on Friday after a good score, you know what you can do on the golf course. So you’re going out with some expectations compared to when on Thursday you’re going out with not many. I think I’ve just got to approach it like that, and start off trying to hit solid shots the first few holes and play my way into the round, just like I did today. I hit some really good shots on the first holes and that gave me confidence and then I could go from there”
“But really just take it one hole at a time, one shot at a time. I know everyone says it and you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. That’s what I’ll be trying to do tomorrow.”
Manassero had himself quite a day too, making 7 birdies against just two bogeys:
“Yeah, very, very pleased, actually. It’s just the perfect start. As you all could see out there it was calm. It was just a really nice day to get off this Open Championship. So birdies were out there, but this golf course it’s not easy. So you have to play really solid. You have to play smart a few times just to take your par and go. And then maybe possibly attack if you’re playing well. If you’re playing solid, you can attack in a few other holes”
“And then obviously to make seven birdies you need quite long putts to drop sometimes and a bit of luck. But it’s been a really good round and I’m really pleased with it.”
And that gets us to the 7 players T3 at 4-under par. It’s an eclectic gathering lead by up-and-coming, young globe trotter, Brooks Koepka. Followed by the Molinari brothers from Italy, Edoardo and Francesco. Then you’ve got Jim Furyk who’s coming in after a month off. That was a good thing:
“I think from a mental standpoint it was. I think my attitude was positive. The only event that I really probably skipped this year that I played last was Congressional. It just made sense for my family and I. We wanted to go out to Utah for about three and a half weeks. To take that one in the middle would have cost us a bunch of time.”
“Mentally I’m in a good frame of mind. Mechanically and physically I felt really good over the ball. I felt confidence getting the ball in the fairway. Of course the wind hasn’t blown for four or five days over here, so it’s kind of maybe made it a little easier to get your rhythm and tempo and timing. I think tomorrow we’re going to see is some gusty winds, I think I saw 15 to 25. So it will be the first test that we’ve had all week, really, with controlling the golf ball. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that.”
Also at 4-under are Sergio, Shane Lowry — childhood friend of Rory’s who pulled a surprise upset of him in the 2013 WGC-World Match Play — and one of the favorites, Adam Scott:
“Yeah, it was tougher this afternoon, for sure. The wind kicked up a bit and the back nine played very tough coming back into it most of the time, and then in and across, and all of those kind of things make it very demanding. But positioned it off the tee really nice today.”
“I can’t say it could have been better, but it could have been, I guess. 18 was messy, but there were a couple of short putts and a couple of par 5s I didn’t take advantage of, and from good position. But to keep pace with an early lead of Rory is important, I think.”
Then you have 10 players T10 at 3-under including a very happy Tiger Woods thrilled that he seems to be beyond his surgery recovery and is merely amping up his explosiveness again, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker and great ball striker, Boo Weekley.
Other notables include:
2-under – Bill Haas and Jason Dufner
1-under – Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson, Lee Westwood
Even – Last week’s John Deere Classic winner, Brian Harman, Darren Clarke, Harris English, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose
1-over and the current cut line at T64 – Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Martin Kaymer
The weather is always the great equalizer at the Open. We’ll see what the new day brings.