Rory Backers Beware – The Open Day 1 Review
The Open Championship
Blustery coastal gales that change direction from one minute to the next are what make links golf such a challenge, but there were no sea squalls at Hoylake on Thursday, just a pleasant light breeze.
Without the wind to contend with, this relatively short course should pose few problems, but caution was the watchword on day one. A host of contenders eased their way to healthy sub-par scores, but few really attacked the course and no-one fully capitalised on the benign conditions.
His return from back surgery at Congressional had been less than convincing and some have suggested that making the halfway cut would represent success for Tiger Woods, winner here in 2006. He scowled his way round today, hitting some wayward iron shots and never appeared completely comfortable. Yet he remained patient, scrapped hard and thanks to the odd flash of genius, stayed firmly in contention.
Rory Backers Beware
Rory McIlroy is not a fan of links golf, but he had his ideal conditions on Thursday. The course was still soft enough to suit him, the negligible wind meant his high flight wasn’t a problem and he put on a near-exemplary display of iron-play and pitching to shoot a 66. But Rory backers should beware.
More than once this year he has made a storming start, only to throw it away in the second or third rounds.
With less friendly weather on the way, he isn’t one to back at short odds of 5/1.
The top of the leaderboard had a distinctly Italian look to it as day one went on with young Matteo Manassero leading the way. He was one under at the halfway stage but three birdies in the last four holes propelled him up the leaderboard. One shot behind were the Molinari brothers. Edoardo led the way with a consistent round, but younger brother Francesco drew level with a superb eagle at the last hole.
Henrik Stenson was one of several big names who failed to take advantage of the favourable conditions.
Poised to make a charge down the back nine, he badly misjudged a long putt on the twelfth, which seemed to throw him for the rest of his round. Luke Donald and Brandt Snedeker also struggled, and a poor back nine from Graeme McDowell saw him finish the day two over.
Could this be Sergio Garcia’s year? Punters will be understandably reluctant to take a chance on the Spaniard given his previous Open disappointments, but there is no denying he looked in good touch from the start and his delightful chip at the eleventh to go three under was one of the highlights of day one. He is nicely positioned two shots off the lead and is worth a bet at 15/1 to break his Major duck.