I arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland immediately following a few days in Marbella, Spain on Wednesday and the first thing I did after checking into my hotel was to turn on the BBC’s pre-Open Championship coverage and like they do for Wimbledon, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.
After 10 days of traveling through Italy with stops in Tuscany and the amazing Amalfi Coast, it was back to doing the sports thing and the BBC got me up to date in a hurry! The weather here is ridiculously unseasonably warm (reaching a high over 80 degrees during Thursday’s opening round) along with humidity that the usual tournament favorite Tiger Woods admitted to me was closer to what he’s used to at his Florida home than what he could’ve ever expected here.
After a long first day it was former Masters Champ Zack Johnson atop the leaderboard by one over a pair including 2-time major winner Mark O’Meara (my previous one-time hockey color commentator in 1997 the year of his Masters and British Open titles). A brief recall of that fun time was my old Long Beach Ice Dogs play by play days when I recall us ending a long trip in Florida to face the Orlando Solar Bears of the now defunct IHL. I notice O’Meara and his good buddy (and local neighbor) Tiger Woods enjoying their rink-side on the glass season seats. Since O’Meara was a Long Beach State grad and biggest story of that golf year, I requested to get him on the air for a few minutes. He not only came upstairs to be on with me (I was doing that broadcast alone) but O’Meara enjoyed his time so much that he stayed for the entire first period doing color analysis with me leaving Tiger to watch the first 20 minutes all by his lonesome. That was a special road trip broadcast with a local flavor from afar!
After today’s opening round I asked many questions during interviews with many of the tournament’s principles which include 9 of the top 14 players being Americans (for whatever reason?). The following are some of those as you’ll get a flavor of the mood at Muirfield which is one of the great historic courses on the planet.
Zack Johnson first round leader newser:
Zack Johnson with Sobel et al after round 1 at Muirfield
56 year old Mark O’Meara a surprising contender at The Open:
Mark O’Meara with Sobel et al after great first round at Muirfield
So far so good for Tiger Woods who’s rehabbed elbow is holding up just fine but he better stay out of the ‘corn fields type’ rough or else he could hack his way onto a surgeon’s table. Tiger began his day by hitting his opening tee shot into some ugly hay and then finished with a ‘ROUGH’ getting out of. But he’s in a great spot to win his first major since his ‘one for the ages’ U.S. Open title with a broken leg 5 years ago at Torrey Pines which was truly one of my all-time favorites to cover.
Tiger Woods newser after an impressive 2 under par round with an afternoon start that averaged out to be an almost two shot higher score for the day:
Tiger Woods post round one at Muirfield
Dustin Johnson newser after his 3 under 68 and T-4 start:
Dustin Johnson with Sobel et al after opening round 3 under 68 at Muirfield and a T4
Phil Mickelson newser after a very solid 2 under 69:
Phil Mickelson post first round at Muirfield from Sobel
Rory McIlroy who admitted to me and several other media types after an awful 8 over par round that he might need to see a shrink to get his world class game back…it’s TOTALLY a mental thing with him now:
Rory McIlroy with Sobel et al post round one 8 over par at Muirfield
Some other notables who I had some post-round contact with were Spainard and European tour multi-winner was Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano who I had the pleasure to meet for a first time and we interacted about my trip to his local Spain and how he assess his play today:
Gonzalo Fernandez Castano with sobel after his 1 under 70 after I just left his hometown on Wed to come here<
Tiger and several others who are in contention will get the more desireable earlier tee times on Friday, but will they be able to take advantage of the expected easier conditions? The fun continues at this great historic major!