Notes: Furyk fine after break; Clarke content; more

Jim Furyk during Thursday's first round of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
Jim Furyk during Thursday's first round of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. ( Getty Images )

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jim Furyk took a month off before coming to Hoylake. He, wife Tabitha and their two children spent three weeks in Utah and a week in Paris.

The down time seemed to have worked as Furyk returned to competitive golf by posting a 4-under 68 in the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

“Mentally I'm in a good frame of mind, and I've been real happy. Mechanically and physically, I felt really good over the ball,” Furyk, 44, said after posting the third-best score in his Open Championship career. “I felt a lot of confidence getting the ball in the fairway. Of course the wind hasn't blown for four or five days over here, so it's kind of maybe made it a little easier to get your rhythm and tempo and timing.”

Furyk will tee off at 1:27 p.m. local time Friday, and the forecast calls for windier and possibly rainy conditions.

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"IT'S LINKS GOLF:" Darren Clarke dug himself into a big hole early and filled it in quite nicely, shooting an even-par 72 Thursday.

Staring with a bogey on the first hole, Clarke got back to even with a birdie on the third before a double bogey on the par-5 fifth and a bogey on the par-4 seventh. He turned at 3-over 38 despite the benign morning conditions.

Clarke would recover with birdies on Nos. 10 and 12, and a closing birdie at the par-5 18th erased the front-nine deficit.

“I've played enough links to know that that can turn around very quick," said Clarke, the 2011 Open champion. “Everybody is going to get some bad bounces. Everybody is going to hit a few shots at some stage during the week, and hopefully I've hit one or two bad ones and bring my number of bad ones down the rest of the week. That's fine. It's links golf.”

• • •

THEY PLAY GOLF IN FINLAND, TOO: Mikko Ilonen is not a household name in the U.S., but with his victory last month at the Irish Open, the Finn is one of the hottest golfers on the European Tour.

With a scattered record of only five Open Championship appearances dating to 2000 at St. Andrews, Ilonen does not have much links experience, except for the fact that he won the 2000 British Amateur at Royal Liverpool.

“I feel maybe just a little bit disappointed with the score, if I compare it to how I played,” Ilonen said of his morning 2-under 70. “I played really well, and I played aggressive where I needed to be. Hit a few more drivers today than I was planning to, but obviously with this weather you've got to be aggressive. A lot of the holes are like dartboards out there, so you're going to see some really good scoring today.”

Forty-eight of the 156 players broke par.

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IT WAS AN EXPERIENCE: Ben Martin was introduced to championship links golf on Thursday as he teed it up for the first time in the Open Championship.

Shooting a 1-under 71, Martin was disappointed mainly because he gave a shot away on the par-5 18th hole when his tee shot found a bunker and led to a closing bogey.

Nerves got to Martin early with bogeys on the first and third holes, but he rallied and made four birdies over the next 14 holes.

Martin talked about his birdie on the par-5 fifth hole and then a par save at the seventh as round changers but ultimately was a little disappointed that it didn’t blow harder.

“I'm sure if we're here four days we'll get some weather,” Martin said. “You say you shoot 1 under the first round, yeah, it's probably going to be a good score, but as easy as it's playing, a little bit disappointed in that round. I feel like I left a few shots out there, but I hit a lot of quality shots. I'm sure that tomorrow it could be raining and blowing 20 (mph). One under might be one of the low rounds tomorrow.”

• • •

STARTED SLOWLY, RALLIED: Australian Matt Jones has had a dream season, winning for the first time on the PGA Tour when he captured the Shell Houston Open in a playoff over Matt Kuchar.

But in the first two majors of the year, Jones has struggling, missing cuts in the Masters and U.S. Open.

So when the Aussie made consecutive double bogeys on the second and third holes, his third major of the year was looking eerily similar to his first two.

“One error – two errors, actually – and turned into 4 over after 3, which is not a good start,” Jones said. “But I've been hitting it well this week, playing well, so I knew if I just kept giving myself chances, I'd have a chance to get back to even.”

After turning at 3-over 38, Jones made consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-12 before a bogey at the 17th and a closing eagle to finish at 1-under 71.

“It's probably the best I've ever hit it,” Jones said of his week. “Warming up yesterday, I hit a lot of quality shots. We all hit bad shots here and there; that's going to happen. But I'm actually putting really well, which I haven't been doing for a couple months.”

• • •

SO, WHO'S GOT THE DRIVER? Englishman Justin Rose came back home to England as one of the world's hottest golfers.

Rose won the Quicken Loans National in Bethesda, Md., on June 29 before last week's victory in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last week at Royal Aberdeen.

Upon arriving in Hoylake at Royal Liverpool, Rose was a popular choice to win his second career major championship.

All of that momentum nearly was derailed before Rose had even hit a shot here. Before the first round, Rose realized that his driver, a TaylorMade SLDR 430 with 10.5 degrees of loft and a Matrix OZIK 6M3 Black Tie X shaft, was missing from his bag.

“This morning when I picked up my bag, there was a driver in the wrong spot in my bag,” Rose said. “So I picked it up, and that's not my shaft. “

It turns out that during the week, two drivers were made for friends of Rose’s caddie, Mark Futcher, and somehow Rose’s driver was given to one of Futcher’s friends.

The problem, though, is that the caddie's friends had left to return to Bedford, about 190 miles away.

Lucky for Rose that he had a 2:27 p.m. tee time. He started the round without a driver, carrying only 13 clubs, and got his driver back by the third hole.

“You have to see the funny side of that, really,” Rose said after shooting even-par 72. “Obviously when we made the call, the guy was coming straight back with it. I knew I would have it by the time I really, really needed it out there, toward the seventh and the back nine. The way the course was playing, I knew I wasn't going to require the driver for a good couple of hours into my round.”