American Dustin Johnson has joined the Spanish duo of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rafael Cabrera-Bello at 4-under and in the early lead at the 2013 British Open. Johnson, one of the longest hitters in the world, has contended in each of the last three Open Championships, finishing inside the top 15 the last three years. He's had an inconsistent season, opening with a win in Maui but then falling out of form and withdrawing from several tournaments due to injury. He's got the talent to be a multiple-major winner but several close calls over the past four seasons have resulted in nothing but Sunday disappointment for the Coastal Carolina product.
The firm and fast Muirfield layout this week was supposed to even things out and not necessarily favor the bombers, but Johnson has been steady tee-to-green to finish an outward nine in 32 to match Jimenez and Cabrera-Bello. Back-to-back birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 completed the impressive start to the week.
Jimenez started his Open with an outward 31 and looked to be a prime challenger for the majors record of 63. But he's cooled off since his four birdies in the first five holes, playing the first five on the back nine in 1-over. He carded his first bogey of the day at No. 12 to drop a shot and open things up for Johnson and his countryman Cabrera-Bello.
Much like Jimenez, Phil Mickelson was quick out of the gate on Thursday, picking up birdies on two of the first three holes. Mickelson, who stated this week that he's found the secret to putting, drained a moderate length par save at a first hole that's seen plenty of crooked and large numbers so far. The confidence with the putter and his legendary wedge game led to birdies at Nos. 2 and 3 and last week's winner at the Scottish Open was well on his way. But Phil made a disappointing par at the par-5 fifth, a shorter hole which he could conceivably reach in two with two iron shots. Mickelson sent his tee ball left into the high fescue and had to settle for a punch out short of the green and could not get up-and-down for birdie.
But early in the Championship, Mickelson is right there on a Muirfield course that is yielding some low numbers in the ideal conditions. Here's a current snapshot of the leaderboard on Thursday morning:
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