HOYLAKE, England – Try as he might, Ernie Els couldn’t muster up any of his Birkdale magic. His worst score in an Open Championship was there five years ago, an opening 80, but in impressive fashion, The Big Easy rallied with 69-74-69 to finish in a share of eighth.
That memorable performance epitomized Els’ passion for golf’s oldest championship, but the two-time winner of the Claret Jug never was able to lift himself out of the hole he dug so early in Round 1 of the 143rd Open. Up against it thanks to an opening 79, Els managed just a 1-over 73 and at 8-over 152 missed just his fourth cut in 24 Open Championships.
He was hardly the only big name to check out early.
In fact, another two-time Open champion, Padraig Harrington (74-78), missed the cut, and so did two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (76-72). If he was looking for someone with whom to commiserate, Watson didn’t have to go far: his housemate for the week, former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson (76-77), missed his first cut in three tries here.
While Tiger Woods narrowly escaped missing the cut and the iconic Tom Watson and Jordan Spieth also made it on the number, 2-over 146, there were others who were not so fortunate and won’t be part of the 72-man weekend field:
- Lee Westwood failed to birdie any of the four par 5s, shot 76, and missed the cut for just the second time in his last nine Open Championships.
- Ian Poulter birdied the 18th, but by playing his last 10 holes in 3 over to shoot 74, he missed by one.
- Nick Watney bogeyed 13 and 14 to shoot 72-75 and miss by one.
- Harris English bogeyed 17 and 18 to miss the cut by two.
- John Daly birdied four of the final six holes, but at 77-71 he missed the cut for the fifth time in eight Open Championships since he won in 1995.
- Ryo Ishikawa, who got in when Steve Stricker chose not to play, didn’t stick around very long. He shot a pair of 74s to miss the cut by two.
- Patrick Reed shot 78-71 and missed the cut in his Open debut.
- J.B. Holmes went for 74-77 and has missed the cut four times in six starts in this championship.
- Heartache was sprinkled throughout, but of note was Hiroshi Iwata. He was 3 under through 10 holes when he bogeyed 11 and 12, doubled the 17th and doubled 18 to miss the cut by one.
- All four amateurs – Ashley Chesters, Cheng-Tsung Pan, Paul Dunne and Bradley Neil – missed the cut, so R&A officials can save themselves a silver medal.
It wasn’t all gloom and doom, however, because a series of players offered some heroics – specifically, birdies at the par-5 18th – to make the cut on the number: Brandt Snedeker, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Luke Donald, Stewart Cink, Matt Every and Charley Hoffman.
Not to be outdone, Graeme McDowell was 3 over when he played the back in 4 under to make the cut with ease. Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, 4 over through four, played his last 14 holes in 4 under to get into the weekend.
Ryan Palmer and Billy Hurley III birdied 17 and 18 to make the cut by one, and Angel Cabrera shined, backing up a 76 with a 69 to make the cut by one.