Halfway through the first round of the British Open on Thursday, Kyle Porter had made a couple of key observations.
“Well, I think two things,” the CBS Sports golf writer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The first is that the front nine is playing a lot easier than the back nine. The wind is blowing differently both ways, and you’ve seen much, much lower scores on the front nine. So really the formula is kind of what Jordan Spieth put together. He shot a 31 on the front, which was five under, and even par 36 on the back to shoot a 67 overall.”
And the second thing?
“The second thing is, the 17th hole is playing incredible difficult,” Porter said. “It’s always a difficult hole. Nobody birdied it so far today, and it doesn’t look like anybody’s going to. So if you can hang on (when you get to) 17 and 18, you’re doing pretty good.”
Spieth, with a 67, is just two shots off of Dustin Johnson, who is atop the leaderboard with a 65. Needless to say, first place is a huge confidence booster for Johnson, especially with the way the wind is behaving.
It’s also a bit nerve-wracking for the guys not teeing off until this afternoon.
“I think what’s interesting about Dustin Johnson – and this goes, I think, for all golf tournaments,” Porter said. “He’s one of the first groups out, and you post a 65 really early. Well, then (the) guys (going in) the afternoon – regardless of the weather – think, ‘I need to keep this within striking distance for Friday and Saturday.’ Especially with a guy like DJ and even a Spieth, a Jason Day, guys who are up there who have that pedigree of winning. It really creates some maybe angst for guys that are going off in the afternoon.”
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, struggled yet again Thursday, posting an opening-round 76.
“If there are two places that I think Tiger Woods would always play well, (it would be) Augusta and St. Andrews,” Porter said. “He’s never not played those courses well, even when he’s struggled. I just don’t understand the 76 today. He hits it well in his practice round. He said his warm up on the range was one of the best he’s had in a long time. And he just gets on the first tee and it’s like – I don’t know. It’s very strange, I think, to see somebody like Tiger – who for so long was so mentally elite – just really struggle mentally right now.”
Woods posted the same score as 65-year-old Tom Watson, who won the British Open five times from 1975 to 1983. Watson is as beloved as any golfer in Scotland.
“That’s the word I was going to use,” Porter said. “Of all the older American (golfers) of his generation – Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, guys like that – he’s the one they love and revere. You saw this during the Ryder Cup last year. Despite all the arguing within the American camp, there wasn’t a lot of people in Scotland taking the side of Phil Mickelson. All the folks over there, because he’s won the British Open five times, they love his style. They love how tough he is. He’s that old-school type of golfer that (they) really like and love. I think you’ll see that in probably what’s going to be his last round ever at the British Open on Friday.”