British Open leaderboard 2013: Miguel Angel Jimenez leads early, Phil Mickelson opens with par save

Andrew Redington

A Spanish duo gets hot early at Muirfield to set the pace on Thursday.

We are underway at Muirfield, and the early leader of the 2013 British Open is veteran Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. The 49-year-old opened his first round with three straight birdies, and has set the early pace at 4-under through his first eight holes. The Mechanic is one of the most popular players in the history of the European Tour, and a Claret Jug win would be comparable to Darren Clarke's surprise victory two years ago. The first hole has been treacherous so far on Thursday, with multiple quadruple bogeys and plenty of crooked numbers. But Jimenez, who is past his prime but has long been one of the best ball strikers in the world, was perfect at the start and birdied four of his first five holes. Clarke's win and Tom Watson's contention have shown that this championship is amenable to the older golfer making a serious run at the championship.

There are 12 other players in the red chasing Jimenez, with his countryman Rafael Cabrera-Bello the closest at 3-under. Cabrera-Bello is another Spaniard who's been among the best in the world for several years now, regularly competing in majors and at the WGC events. Much like Jimenez, he went on a nice little birdie streak to start his week, adding red three numbers in a four-hole stretch early on Thursday.

Joining the two Spaniards in the red are three former champions, Stewart Cink (2-under), Todd Hamilton (1-under) and Ben Curtis (1-under). The marquee morning group is also now out on the course, and both Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy scrambled to get their quality pars at Muirfield's opening hole. Mickelson drained a moderate-length par-saving putt while Rory got up-and-down from the bunker for his four. As has been demonstrated so far, there are birdie opportunities early on the outward nine for both players so avoiding a big number at the first was crucial.

Here's a current snapshot of the early first round leaderboard:

Score Player Thru
-4 Miguel Angel Jimenez 8
-3 Rafael Cabrera-Bello 7
-2 Martin Kaymer 5
-2 Stewart Cink 9
-1 Ben Curtis 8
1 Dustin Johnson 4
-1 Brandt Snedeker 3
E Phil Mickelson 1
E Rory McIlroy 1
E Fred Couples 4
E Justin Rose 4
1 Bubba Watson 4
1 Ernie Els 4

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