Iowa’s Zach Johnson shot a 5-under 66 to lead the Open Championship by one stroke over 56-year-old Mark O’Meara, the 1998 British Open champion who shot a 4-under 67 on Thursday.
Only 15 players finished under par in what was a glorious day. The course was nonetheless tough in the afternoon as the greens were baked and players often putted off the slippery and glass-like greens.
India’s Shiv Kapur shot a 3-under 68 in the afternoon and Tiger Woods shot a gritty 2-under 69 in tough conditions.
The players who went out in the morning fared better. Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello finished at 4-under and is tied with O’Meara for second. Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is at 3-under, along with South Carolina’s Dustin Johnson and Tennessee’s Brandt Snedeker. American Tom Lehman, who like O’Meara is back on a major leaderboard, is also at 3-under. Americans Todd Hamilton, another former American British Open winner, and Phil Mickelson are at 2-under.
Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old who became the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years last week, shot a 2-under 69 as well. Bubba Watson, who eagled the 17th hole, is at 1-under and four shots off the lead.
Muirfield is historic, tough, and fair, and the course spits out the pretenders. Historically, only big names and big-time players win at the course, as only two Open Championship winners at Muirfield are not in the Hall of Fame.
Friday may bring tougher conditions, and players, like Woods, who will tee off in the morning may have an advantage over those who have afternoon tee times.