Surely Muirfield will quicken up later in the day – but if the leaders who have seen Muirfield at its driest twice this week already are able to adjust, then Jason Dufner has shown them a low number is possible on its Sunday setup.
Dufner shot 67 early, largely on the strength of back-to-back birdies to start each nine. On the front, he followed with seven straight pars. On the back, he bogeyed Nos. 13 and 15, answering with birdies at Nos. 14 and 17. The 4-under round has pulled Dufner up to T-43 as he ends the week 8 over.
The round would be the best of the week if not for Zach Johnson’s first-round 66. Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Mark O’Meara have the week’s other two 67s, both on Thursday.
Oliver Fisher and Bo Van Pelt turned in early 68s today, improving to 9 and 10 over respectively.
On the course at 3 under is Fred Couples, through 13 holes; he’s T-26 at 6 over for the week.
So these aren’t crazy-low numbers we’re talking about. But on a British Open scale, it should give hope to some of the contenders who are four shots or more behind leader Lee Westwood. Those who have won majors before include Adam Scott (three back at even par), Angel Cabrera and Zach Johnson (four back at 1 over) and Phil Mickelson (five back at 2 over).
If Westwood fails to break par, Dufner has set the stage for the possibility of a come-from-behind win.