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Beth Ann Nichols
Cheng-Tsung Pan during the first round of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
Cheng-Tsung Pan during the first round of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.

HOYLAKE, England – Looking back, Cheng-Tsung Pan should’ve listened to his caddie. Tom Heggarty advised his boss, a fellow college golfer, to hit 4-iron off the tee on No. 4 at the Open Championship, but Pan reached for the 3-iron.

Bunker.

Pan, a former World No. 1 amateur and senior at Washington, might have the more impressive resume, but it’s Heggarty who has been playing Hoylake since age 4. Heggarty, a senior at East Tennessee State, is the son of longtime Royal Liverpool head pro John Heggarty.

“Tomorrow I need to play well,” said Pan, who opened with a ...

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Jeff Rude
Henrik Stenson fired an even-par 72 in the first round of the Open Championship.
Henrik Stenson fired an even-par 72 in the first round of the Open Championship.

HOYLAKE, England – Some even-par rounds are more eventful than others. Henrik Stenson reinforced that Thursday during the Open Championship first round when he putted a ball off of a green and, five holes later, broke a wedge over his knee.

The Swede made what he called a “good bogey” on the 458-yard 17th, where he hit three shots from heavy rough before reaching the green. But after the second swipe from high grass, a strong and upset Stenson snapped a shaft into two pieces.

“I didn’t see anything. Did you see anything?” the world’s No. 2 ranked golfer ...

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Alistair Tait
Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, 6-under 66 on Thursday at the Open Championship.
Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, 6-under 66 on Thursday at the Open Championship.

HOYLAKE, England – Will Rory McIlroy have another Freaky Friday?

McIlroy is in familiar territory at the top of the leaderboard Thursday. Where he’ll be Friday evening is anybody’s guess.

Freaky Fridays have developed into a nasty habit for the former World No. 1.

McIlroy’s 6-under-par 66 gave him an early one-shot lead over Matteo Manassero. With a posse of players 4 under par, including Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry, the Molinari brothers and World No. 1 Adam Scott.

McIlroy went into a meltdown the last time he led the Open Championship after the first ...

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Jeff Rude
Tiger Woods celebrates making a birdie putt on the 11th green during his first-round, 3-under 69.
Tiger Woods celebrates making a birdie putt on the 11th green during his first-round, 3-under 69.

HOYLAKE, England – Rust? What rust?

Tiger Woods didn’t look corroded in the least, after bogeys on the first two holes anyway. Rather he looked comfortable and dangerous in shooting 3-under 69 in the Open Championship first round Thursday.

Woods missed the cut by four strokes at the Quicken Loans National three weeks ago in his first tournament back from March 31 microdiscectomy. That raised the question of how ready he would be for his first major championship round in 339 days.

He was ready. You might be surprised. He wasn’t.

“Well, I knew I could do it,” the ...

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Alex Miceli
Edoardo Molinari tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Edoardo Molinari tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

HOYLAKE, England – Italy never has been known as a hotbed of golf. Its sports history is tied to a soccer team that has won four World Cup titles since 1934 and a fencing program that has captured more than 60 gold medals in the Olympics since the turn of the 20th century.

That could all change with the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, sitting near the top of the leaderboard in the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

“I think in Italy at the moment it's more about team sports and football in particular,” The younger Francesco said of ...

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Alex Miceli
Ben Crane won the FedEx St. Jude Classic last month.
Ben Crane won the FedEx St. Jude Classic last month.

HOYLAKE, England – Ben Crane has been at Royal Liverpool since 5:20 a.m. Thursday morning in hopes of teeing it up in his sixth Open Championship.

It wasn’t until Tuesday evening at just after 5:00 p.m. in Portland that Crane found out from his manager that he was now the first alternate due to Seung-Yul Noh’s decision to stay in Korea.

Upon hearing the news, Crane stopped his charity lesson after just one shot and jumped into his car where he had his clubs and suitcase ready to go.

The odyssey started on a flight ...

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Jim McCabe
Brooks Koepka fired a 4-under 68 on Thursday at the Open Championship.
Brooks Koepka fired a 4-under 68 on Thursday at the Open Championship.

HOYLAKE, England – There was a pause in the Round 1 action Thursday at Royal Liverpool as officials had to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for Brooks Koepka’s ball to come to a complete stop at the 528-yard, par-5 fifth.

Launched high and explosively into the English air, the first of Koepka’s two shots struck with a driver took a while to come down and then to stop rolling. “He hit it over 400 yards,” said caddie Ricky Elliott. “He hit a wedge in there.”

Birdie.

But hold the applause and offer a yawn. It was a par 5 ...

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Nick Masuda
Tiger Woods had six birdies en route to his 3-under 69 on Thursday at the Open Championship.
Tiger Woods had six birdies en route to his 3-under 69 on Thursday at the Open Championship.

Tiger Woods fired a 3-under 69 on Thursday at the Open Championship, currently sitting three shots off the lead.

The round consisted of six birdies and three bogeys – including back-to-back bogeys to start the round.

Here's how Tiger's round unfolded, shot by shot, at Royal Liverpool:

• • •

Hole 1: Par 4, 458 yards

As a handful of groups have made the turn, the attention on the course turns to Tiger Woods, playing in his first major of the year after back surgery. With temperatures expected to reach 75 degrees today, Woods is decked out in a short-sleeve grey shirt ...

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Beth Ann Nichols
Robert Karlsson tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Robert Karlsson tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

HOYLAKE, England – Robert Karlsson’s alarm clock went off at 4:00 a.m. His wife, Ebba, cooked his breakfast and sent him off to Royal Liverpool for a 6:30 a.m. tee time. Much to Karlsson’s surprise, the first-tee grandstands were packed.

“I would not have been there,” Karlsson said, laughing.

But Karlsson, a 6-foot-5-inch Swede and 11-time European Tour winner, won’t be complaining about a bad draw at the Open Championship any time soon. It was only two years ago that the affable Karlsson withdrew on the eve of this championship with a most horrid ...

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David Dusek
Robert Karlsson tied for the lead with a birdie at No. 16.
Robert Karlsson tied for the lead with a birdie at No. 16.

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 ...

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Phil Mickelson during a practice round Monday at the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
Phil Mickelson during a practice round Monday at the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.

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Beth Ann Nichols
John Singleton walks off a green during a practice round prior to the start of The Open Championship.
John Singleton walks off a green during a practice round prior to the start of The Open Championship.

HOYLAKE, England – John Singleton, the local factory worker, hopes he doesn’t have to turn up to work on Monday. That would mean he either had earned enough money at the Open Championship to quit his job, or someone with deep pockets fancied a new career for one of only two players who advanced to Royal Liverpool through two U.K. qualifying stages. It wouldn’t be the first time Singleton had charmed his way into something.

“Good luck, Big John,” a fan yelled as Singleton walked off the first tee Wednesday afternoon alongside John Daly.

Both Johns turned their ...

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Jeff Rude
John Daly looks on during a practice round prior to the start of The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
John Daly looks on during a practice round prior to the start of The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

HOYLAKE, England – John Daly had one word for the Royal Liverpool rough. “Brutal,” he said Wednesday on the eve of the 143rd Open Championship.

Daly should know. He said he lost six balls on the front nine of a Monday practice round despite the fact “four of the shots weren’t that bad.”

The 1995 Open champion – wearing his usual wild slacks, this time a colorful SpongeBob SquarePants style – uncharacteristically was among the last players on the practice ground Wednesday night. Among other things, he was trying to figure out how to handle the 447-yard, dogleg-left 12th.

“I can make ...

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Brentley Romine
Ian Poulter practices for the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
Ian Poulter practices for the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.

Ian Poulter is a go for the Open Championship.

Poulter, who injured his right wrist during last week's Scottish Open, said that an MRI on the wrist revealed no serious damage. However, the Englishman has a ganglion cyst.

"By jarring it, by taking a force of a whack (on my wrist), some of that fluid has come out of the joint and into the cyst sac . . . it's just touching on the nerve," Poulter said Tuesday at Royal Liverpool. "So I'm just getting a little bit of pain. So I'll be chewing some anti-inflammatories and some painkillers ...

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Jeff Rude
Henrik Stenson on the eve of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
Henrik Stenson on the eve of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

HOYLAKE, England – Invariably when people learn what I do for a living, they tend to ask at least one of four questions.

1. What’s Tiger like?

2. What’s Phil like?

3. What’s your favorite course?

4. Who’s your favorite player?

The answers, using single words for brevity’s sake, are:

1. Guarded.

2. Playful.

3. Dornoch.

4. Stenson.

For years, the likes of Bruce Lietzke, Dan Forsman and Brandel Chamblee were my favorite players. But they’ve long moved on from playing ...

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