The 150th Open Championship got underway in style Thursday with those in the morning wave experiencing much tamer conditions compared to those in the afternoon. The man who was able to conquer the Old Course at St. Andrews most effectively was PGA Tour rookie and Open debutant Cameron Young.
Signing for an 8-under 64, Young will hope to follow in the footsteps of Collin Morikawa, who raised the Claret Jug in his first appearance in The Open last season at Royal St. George's. Young was not the only competitor to take advantage of the minimal winds as Rory McIlroy, Cameron Smith, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele all carded rounds in the red figures.
While those off early on the Old Course were given an advantageous arena, that did not stop players in the afternoon from carding strong rounds of their own. Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler and Talor Gooch all signed for rounds of 4-under 68 and sit in a tie for fourth ahead of a logjam of players at 3 under including Bryson DeChambeau.
The wind is forecasted to remain relatively steady Friday, but the direction which it blows from will switch late in the afternoon. This could smooth out the advantage the morning wave received today as players will face a new variable on a golf course filled with them.
Here is the breakdown of the leaderboard after the first round of the 150th Open.
2022 Open Championship leaderboard
1. Cameron Young (-8): It's wild what just a couple weeks can do to one's perception of a player. The PGA Tour rookie has been tremendous this season, finishing runner-up three times and in a tie for third at the PGA Championship, yet he came into this week having missed his last two cuts. He is long and straight off the tee and credits getting over to Scotland a week early as a reason for his success in the first round. Hitting all 18 greens in regulation for the first time in his career, Young could not have chosen a better time to do so as he was flawless en route to an 8-under 64.
"I think it's a pretty accurate representation of how I feel," said Young regarding his less-than-excited demeanor. "I'm happy I shot 64. I'm happy that, as far as I know, I'm still leading The Open Championship, but it's not going to change how I feel an hour from now. I mean, it might change how I feel on the 1st tee a little bit tomorrow, but I'll forget about it very quickly."
2. Rory McIlroy (-6): The last time McIlroy played an Open at St. Andrews, he shot out of the gates to the tune of 9-under 63. This year, he fired a sterling 6-under 66 matching the first-round effort from his Open triumph in 2014. The first round has not been the issue for the Northern Irishman at majors this season; rather, it's what he has done after the opening 18. McIlroy came into this week as the betting favorite and remains atop the oddsboard despite trailing Young by a pair.
"Fantastic start. Just sort of what you hope will happen when you're starting off your week," said the four-time major champion. "I did everything that you're supposed to do around St Andrews. I birdied the holes that are birdieable, and I made pars at the holes where you're sort of looking to make a par and move to the next tee. And [I] didn't really put myself out of position too much. Overall, really pleased. It's another good start at a major. Three in a row for me now. And looking forward to the next few days."
T3. Cameron Smith, Robert Dinwiddie (-5): The Australian has contended with some regularity at the Masters, but outside of Augusta National, Smith has actually struggled in major championships. Coming into The Open off a top-10 finish at last week's Scottish Open, Smith is relying on past experience to propel him into contention. On a course where wedge play, creativity and lag putting are rewarded, Smith should love his chances moving forward.
"I think just through playing it a few more times, to be honest. I think maybe at the start of my professional career I was trying to play too much of the right shot rather than just sticking to kind of what I know," said Smith of his learning curve for links golf. "I feel like I'm hitting more similar shots to what I would in the U.S., whereas before I thought the need to try and hit it low because that's what everyone said you had to do. And I think with the humps and hollows, it becomes quite unpredictable and just something that I've learned over the years."
T5. Viktor Hovland, Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler, Lee Westwood and four others (-4): Not once but twice did Hovland find himself in a bunker without a stance. Taking an unplayable in one instance and pitching out sideways in the other, Hovland being able to come home and sign for a 4-under 68 is wildly impressive. This is the type of golf we have been waiting for from the young Norwegian as he has yet to truly contend in a major championship. Knowing this moment would inevitably come in his career, it still feels a bit surprising given his current form. Without a top-20 finish since the Players Championship, Hovland missed the cut at the Scottish Open last week despite striking the ball well. He carried this prowess into the opening round, and it is now time to see if he can replicate it over the next 54 holes.
"Obviously, it's kind of maddening right there and then, but you know it's going to happen. I hit a good shot. There's not much you can do about it. It matters how you get out of that situation," said Hovland of one of his bad breaks in the bunkers. "And I made a great par, for example, on that hole today. Instead of letting it bother me too much, and then I try to go for a stupid shot to gain back what I lost."
T13. Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Joaquin Niemann and 11 others (-3): DeChambeau certainly is as surprising if not more so than Hovland given his recent wrist injury and having not played a ton of competitive golf in 2022. Yet here he is with a chance over the next three days in what would be a shocking victory despite knowing what his ceiling can be. Transforming himself from the mad scientist into the bomber, DeChambeau has turned back the clocks and is thinking himself around the Old Course effectively. While that means his greatest asset -- his driver -- is taken out of his hands, he will be more than fine with that if the results materialize as they did in Round 1.
"I'm here to win a golf tournament and I try to focus on how do I make the best score over the best of four days," said DeChambeau. "It's actually pretty simple: Once we get out there, I go, 'OK, driver's possible, but the odds say that you're not going to hit it in the fairway every single time and you'll get bad lies.' And into certain pins you just can't do that."
T35. Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthizen, Hideki Matsuyama and 16 others (-1): Spieth looked to be playing smart, risk-free golf in his opening round, going bogey-free on the front with two birdies for a respectable 34; however, his card got far busier on the back nine with three bogeys that pushed him out of contention and into a spot from which he will be forced to climb Friday to contend on the weekend. Spieth has the creativity and skill to succeed at St. Andrews, and he will have every opportunity to prove that across his second round.
T55. Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Collin Morikawa, Shane Lowry and 18 others (E): It has been a rather quiet week from the Mickelson camp as the 2013 Open champion chose to forgo the champions dinner and was left out of the spotlight leading into the tournament. This may have actually done the six-time major winner some good as he turned in a respectable even-par 72 in which he carded three birdies against three bogeys. Despite playing sparingly in 2022, Mickelson still believes he will find his game over the next 54 holes.
"I had four months off. Obviously when I came back, I wasn't really sharp," said Mickelson. "I thought I was playing a little bit better than I was. My game doesn't feel far off at all. It just doesn't. I let a few strokes slide today, but for the most part, I actually feel pretty good with, like, the parts, but I've just got to bring them together to make the whole. I actually think I have some good rounds in me. I think I'm going to play really well the next few days."
T146. Tiger Woods and three others (+6): Woods' return to competition started out as poorly as one could imagine. Carding two double bogeys in his opening seven holes, the three-time Open champion was never able to recover and subsequently signed for a round of 6-over 78. In total, it was a disappointing day, but the 46-year-old may take some solace in how he competed on the homeward nine as he gained strokes on the field in each tee to green metric. Making the cut will be a difficult task as a round in the mid 60s will be required, but all eyes will remain on Woods.
"I think just the total score," said Woods when asked what disappointed him most from Thursday. "It feels like I didn't really hit it that bad. Yes, I did have bad speed on the greens, yes. But I didn't really feel like I hit it that bad, but I ended up in bad spots or just had some weird things happen. And [that's] just the way it goes. Links golf is like that, and this golf course is like that. And as I said, I had my chances to turn it around and get it rolling the right way, and I didn't do it."
Rick Gehman is joined by Kyle Porter and Patrick McDonald to recap Thursday's action at the Open Championship. Download and follow The Early Edge on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.