Overpaid? Probably. Oversexed? Who knows? Over here? Most certainly, and demonstrating the strength of the American proposition on links golf courses.
If the Scottish Open here is a fair measure of performance ahead of next week’s Open, expect the Stars and Stripes to be all over the St Andrews leaderboard. Jimmy Walker at five under par led the chase of first-day leader Thorbjorn Olesen, who ripped a 63 in the morning sunshine.
Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar both posted 66 to sit four under par with Ryan Palmer at three under and the eternal poster boy Phil Mickelson at one under. There was joy too for the likes of Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose, both with 66, suggesting a Ryder Cup renewal when matters come to the boil over the weekend.
Walker, a most understated performer, prospers by stealth, keeping the mistakes to a minimum. “If you’re bogey-free you get a lot out of your game,” he said. “You have to stay out of the bunkers, hit some good drives and take advantage with some good second shots. I think it was a good day.” The case rests.
Fowler was grateful to be in the shake-up after 18 holes instead of on his way, as he was at his last outing at the US Open in Chambers Bay. “I’d forgotten about it until now,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about it. Things just start going the wrong way and you can’t fix it. Those days just come and then there are other days where it goes the other way and you can’t miss the hole.”
Mickelson endured a laboured start falling two over par after four holes. Once the blood sugars started to rise he found his touch on the greens, rattling off four birdies to stand two under with two to play.
A bogey at the penultimate hole spoiled his card but not his day. “I felt a little bit rusty,” he said. “I haven’t played for a while but I felt a lot more comfortable on the back nine and it was nice to see a couple [of birdies] drop.”
McDowell closed with successive bogeys but like Mickelson saw only “the positives” on what was a much better trip for him. McDowell has struggled to find the keys to his game following the birth of his first child, a daughter, 11 months ago. It took a return to a familiar links setting to liberate him from doubt.
“I felt like I was in a good place out there for a change today,” the Northern Irishman said. “I haven’t felt like I’ve been in a good place very often this year. Life has gotten in the way and that’s a great problem. I wouldn’t change that. But it’s fun to keep hitting good shots and making some putts.
“We say you can’t wait for the golf ball to make you happy. You can always control the way you feel but I feel like I’ve been letting the golf ball piss me off a lot lately.”Reuse content