From the couch: David Dusek on the British Open
11:00 a.m. EDT
Now that I’ve enjoyed three cups of coffee and two breakfasts, it’s time for me to share five observations I have made after watching over six hours of the 2014 Open Championship:
1. Tiger Woods’ five birdies in a six-hole stretch is impressive, but what impressed me most about his opening round at Royal Liverpool was the way he was able to right the ship and recover from a bogey-bogey start. At the time, several players were already at 2- and 3-under, so Woods was well off the lead after just 30 minutes of play. But as the holes went by, his game got tighter and putts started to drop. The birdie on No. 5 was huge. Tiger might not win, but he certainly appears physically capable of playing excellent golf.
2. Rory’s opening-round 66 was not really surprising, but he sure made it look easy. McIlroy is clearly playing better these days, but the real test for Rory is going to come tomorrow, in the second round, when he needs to back it up. The weather is not expected to be as favorable in the second round and McIlroy’s Friday scores at the Open Championship are not usually that great:
- 2013: 75 (MC)
- 2012: 75 (T-60)
- 2011: 69 (T-25)
- 2010: 80 (T-3)
- 2009: 74 (T-47)
- 2007: 76 (T-42)
To be fair, that 80 at St. Andrews in 2010 came after an opening-round 63 and was shot in conditions that were so windy that McIlroy and others questioned whether the R&A should have stopped play. Still, McIlroy admitted that he’s thinking about his Friday problems.
"It’s more I just got it into my head,” he said in his pre-tournament press conference. "I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a good score.”
Well see how his head is in 24 hours.
3. Rickie Fowler went out in 32, then had a few loose bogeys on his inward nine to finish at 69, 3 under for the day and three shots behind McIlroy. He looked composed, contained and confident. There’s no doubt that having played in the final group Sunday alongside Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open has given him confidence. He used to be known for the sizzle in his apparel, but Fowler’s level of play since starting to work with Butch Harmon has been a lot better.
4. When Sergio Garcia is making putts, as he was today while shooting 68, it makes you wonder how it’s possible that he has never won a major.
Oh yeah … he’s been mentally fragile and overly negative. During his playoff with Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007, Garcia hit a 3-iron on the 16th hole that hit the flagstick and bounced away from the hole, leading him to say afterward, “You know what's the saddest thing about it? It’s not the first time. It’s not the first time, unfortunately. I don’t know, I’m playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field.” Classic Sergio.
But I have a confession to make: I’m warming to Garcia, and while I’ve always respected his game (he’s undeniably one of the best ball strikers of his generation), I’m starting to think that the world won’t end if he can hold it together, mentally, for 72 holes and finally win a Claret Jug.
5. Jimmy Walker is going to surprise some people during the Ryder Cup and play well, but he won’t surprise me. I know that his three PGA Tour wins were all at the beginning of the season, but he shot 69 Thursday and looks completely comfortable in majors. Last year he played in his first Open Championship and missed the cut after shooting 72-79, but this season he tied for eighth at the Masters and tied for ninth at the U.S. Open. People overlook him because he’s quiet, but Walker can really play.
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5:35 a.m. EDT
It's safe to say that anyone who is crazy enough to wake up before dawn to watch golf is a hardcore fan. The kind of person who sets his alarm clock to go off at 3 a.m. wants more from his TV coverage than just images of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Save the "stars only" broadcast for prime time.
ESPN did not show a single shot of Robert Karlsson, who moved to 3 under and a share of the lead on 16th hole, until he drained a short putt at No. 16. Images of Edoardo Molinari and Marc Leishman, who has been in the lead or tied for the lead most of the morning, also have been sparse.
I love seeing the slow-motion images of Woods' swing, along with the swings of other players, but first and foremost, I want to know how the storylines on the first day of the Open Championship are unfolding. That means showing me the people actually leading the tournament.