The Open Championship is not the most friendly major for the American audience, with the first round starting at 1:30 a.m. back in the Eastern U.S. Thursday's morning wave featured Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, the leader through the first half of the day. Here's what you missed while you were sleeping.
Dustin Johnson, the game's ultimate bombthreat
Even though we last saw him crumbling on the 18th green of the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson seemed like one of the safest picks to win this week at St. Andrews. It sets up perfectly for him, rewarding players who are long off the tee. No one hits it farther or better with the driver than DJ -- multiple ESPN analysts even called him "The longest straight driver of our generation." Given the scoring conditions, he had to go low.
He started 4-under through his first five holes, a stretch that included the field's first eagle of the championship.
Dustin Johnson sinks his eagle putt to move to four under through five holes. #TheOpen https://t.co/K8SBe4Vo2S— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2015
Watching DJ hit drives may be the most exciting show in the game right now and with a bunch of drivable par-4s and no real rough, he was always going to push the pace this week. On the back nine, he almost put it on the green at the par-4 10th and 12th and was pin high to the right of the green in two at the par-5 14th. He then drove one 348 yards right down the middle at the 16th.
Johnson finished 7-under, tied for the lead at the time with Paul Lawrie. As conditions deteriorate for the afternoon, that will probably be the best first round number for the entire field.
Several observers called DJ's week at Chambers Bay the best driving exhibition we'd ever seen in major championship golf. With the way St. Andrews set up for him, this week may be better and he's the one to beat.
Jordan Spieth doesn't need prep
The Grand Slam hopeful was questioned all week for playing the John Deere Classic, which made him one of the last players into Scotland on Monday. He doesn't have any experience here and is still probably adjusting to jet lag, but Spieth did not show it. He rolled in five birdies in his first nine holes to take an early share of the lead. Nothing looked off at all.
Spieth cooled off on the second nine, giving a couple shots back after hitting the tougher stretch of the course. He came in with an even-par back nine. DJ outpaced him but he's still in fine position to keep chasing that third leg of the slam at 5-under and tied for sixth.
This may have been the worst of a bad Tiger Woods
We really should not be surprised by anything Tiger Woods does right now, but I still could not believe he started as poorly as he did at St. Andrews. This is a venue that he says is his favorite course in the world. It's one that forgives some of his biggest weaknesses. He also looked like a different player in his last start at the Greenbrier, hitting fairways and greens in regulation as if he could compete and contend on the PGA Tour. That was an easy course, but this one was supposed to set up well for him, too.
I did not expect Tiger to win this week, no one did. But a made cut and a top 25 finish seemed realistic. This first round was a total step back to the disasters of the U.S. Open and Memorial. Given the progress he thought he had made, it's probably worse. It started with an inexcusable bogey at the easy first hole, where he duffed a short approach shot into the burn running in front of the green.
Maybe he had a good round in him and that shot sent it all spiraling? He reportedly looked good on the range again, but he was a mess from the first tee onward.
Watch Tiger on the range, and it's still like watching Yo-Yo Ma play the cello. He gets on the course and it's like he's strangling a goose.— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) July 16, 2015
The conditions will get tougher for the afternoon so he'll get more company down toward the bottom of the leaderboard. But Tiger is also scheduled to be out in the worst weather of the week Friday afternoon, when the wind is gusting over 40 miles per hour and the scores much higher. He had his chance to post a positive round Thursday morning and blew it. Now he's likely headed home early at his second straight major.
Tom Watson gives it away late
The 65-year-old Watson is playing his last Open, an event he's won five times. One of the modern masters of links golf started well enough and it looked like that farewell walk over Swilcan Bridge at the 18th would come on Sunday. Then he double-bogeyed three of five holes down the stretch and tumbled down to the bottom of the leaderboard.
Watson delivered one of the more melancholy press conferences you'll ever see on Wednesday, announcing that next year's Masters would be his last on top of this year's Open farewell. He's still got the game to compete for different nine-hole stretches but it can come undone in a hurry. Now he's heading for Friday afternoon exit from the championship he owned for so many years.
A new amateur record
Jordan Nierbrugge is one of those Oklahoma State products that you'll be hearing more from in the near future. The course was certainly gettable, but Nierbrugge went out and posted the lowest score by an amateur in the history of The Open at St. Andrews (another am, Paul Kinnear, was threatening to match or break it later).
Nierbrugge was inside the top 10 when he finished up at the Old Course. It's an impressive feat, especially for an amateur. And then you realize he's just a month younger than Jordan Spieth.
The legend that is Miguel A Jimenez warming up for today's 1st Rd of @TheOpen in the @ETPI_Physiounit @EuropeanTour pic.twitter.com/ykOiCUEPnr— ETPI (@ETPI_Physiounit) July 16, 2015